1. Jeremy Cash, SENIOR, SAFETY
Last Week: 1
After losing to Northwestern, Cash told the media that Duke went through the most physical week of practice in the program's history. The result was a dominant defensive performance by Duke against the nation's second best rushing attack. As for Cash, he maintains his spot at number one overall in our weekly power rankings after posting national defensive player of the week-like numbers against the Yellow Jackets with 12 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 4 QB hurries, 3 tackles for loss, and one sack.
2. Devon Edwards, SOPHOMORE, SAFETY
Last Week: 2
Much like Cash, Edwards took care of business on the defensive side of the ball against Georgia Tech, but he also factors into the return game as evidenced by his 100-yard kick-off return for touchdown. It was the fifth of his career, and came at a time when Duke seemed to be on the ropes.
3. Breon Borders, JUNIOR, CORNERBACK
Last Week: 3
Borders is clearly Duke's best defenisve back in coverage. Though Georgia Tech didn't throw it too much, Borders demonstrated his tremendous closing speed and ability to simply make plays against the Yellow Jackets. He finished with one interception, four tackles and three pass break-ups.
4. Shaquille Powell, SENIOR, RUNNING BACK
Powell is the steadiest factor on offense for a Duke team that is searching for anything approaching consistency on that side of the ball. Whether it's getting short yards and moving the pile or breaking off big runs, the senior continued his strong season by scoring three touchdowns. The return of Jela Duncan allows him some help on the inside running game as well.
5. A.J. Wolf, JUNIOR, DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
Last Week: 9
While the defensive backfield will continue to get a lot of the praise for the Blue Devils' success, it's the improvement up front that has been the major difference from a season ago. Both Wolf and Carlos Wray are not only holding the line, they are getting penetration into the opponents' backfield as well. Wolf's biggest play of the afternoon came when Georgia Tech had a 4th and one late in the game. He jumped the snap and hit the fullback a yard behind the line before the rest of his teammates joined to finish the stop. That control of the point of attack has allowed Duke to be extremely aggressive this season and to have one of the better defenses in the ACC through four weeks.
6. Ross Martin, SENIOR, KICKER
Martin has set four program records thus far and has been his usual, steady self. He has 342 career points, which is sixth all-time. He's converted at least one point in 43 straight games and has been a perfect 6-for-6 in field goals this year.
7. Will Monday, SENIOR, PUNTER
Lask Week: 7
Monday was better with placement and pinning his opponents against Georgia Tech. Much better than he was against Northwestern. However, the conditions forced the senior holder into two mistakes on PATs. With the suspect offensive performance aganst the Yellow Jackets, those two points were almost game changers.
8. Tinashe Bere, FRESHMAN, LINEBACKER
Last Week: NR
Not only is the Duke defense faster and making plays...it's really, really young. Bere, only a redshirt freshman, made his first career start against Georgia Tech and made hte most of the chance. He finished second on the team with 10 tackles and made a number of key stops on third down. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds and very fast, Bere may have secured himself as the new starting middle linebacker after Saturday's performance.
9. Dwayne Norman, SENIOR, LINEBACKER
Much like Bere, Norman was all over the field against Georgia Tech. Another beneficiary of the push up front, Norman was free to shoot the gaps and pursue the ball. He finished with 9 tackles including 1 sack and 2.5 tackles for loss against Georgia Tech. A converted safety, Norman's speed and coverage ability are illustrative of Duke's new defense.
10. Thomas Sirk, JUNIOR, QUARTERBACK
Last Week: 5
Sirk had been very, very strong in the opening weeks against Tulane and NC Central. However, the last two games have exposed the first year starter's inexperience. He's had trouble telegraphing his passes, looking down field, and generally stepping into the pocket and showing the kind of patience displayed by previous Blue Devil signal callers. Much of Sirk's struggles will fall away with experience, and that's the phase Duke is in at the moment. The problem for many fans is that the defense is good enough to with the ACC Coastal Division again, but the team won't achieve that goal without much stronger play under center.