A common theme surrounding the preseason camp in Durham has been the changes along the defensive front for the Blue Devils - all of it traceable to a single source…the hiring of assistant coach Ben Albert.
“He’s pushed me to levels I never thought I could reach,” said sophomore defensive end Marquies Price. “He refers to it as being in deep water. He’s taught us how to get there and how to get through deep water before getting to the team practice part so that we can perform when we get to that point.”
The concept of “Deep Water” has been applied throughout the roster as the Blue Devils endured longer, tougher, and more frequent off-season training sessions. To a man, every Duke player will tell you they are bigger and stronger than a season ago. But perhaps no group has benefitted more from a refocusing of the offseason than the defensive line.
“It’s a level of tiredness that you normally don’t experience,” explained Price of his Albert’s demands. “We have learned how to practice when we’re tired and how to still participate and perform at our highest levels even when we’re uncomfortable. When we’re tired. He pushes you and you learn to push through being uncomfortable.”
On an individual level, Price says the biggest improvement in his game is hard to pinpoint, but he admits that Albert’s constant pushing has helped with both on the field performance as well as film room application.
“Really, I feel that I’ve been pushed to an entirely new level,” said Price.
As a true freshman the 6-foot-6, 245 pound Georgia native played in 10 games and earned a starting nod in three of those contests. He was on the field for 217 snaps and recorded 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
With so much turnover on the defensive line those participation stats actually make Price somewhat of a veteran, but he notes that several classmates and other young players are beginning to push for spots on the depth chart as well.
“Twazanga Mugala is a guy who redshirted last year, but he’s a guy we look to play a lot this season. Also, both Chidi Okonya and Terrell Lucas have come in strong.”