Signing Day Superlatives: Defense

The class of 2009 has seen head coach David Cutcliffe earn a total of 15 commitments from players who figure to lineup on the defensive side of the ball once they arrive in Durham. As we continue our signing day recap, TDD examines the group and offers analysis in our recruiting recap.

The theme for the overall roster and recruiting priorities under Coach Cutcliffe has been speed, speed, and more speed. In the class of 2009 the first full recruiting season has certainly centered around the idea that fast football players will always have a place in the Blue Devil program. On defense Cutcliffe will welcome 10 players with reported 40 times of 4.60 or faster.

Of course Duke didn't load up on players that could also double for the track team. Instead there are a number of highly successful football prospects that figure to be on the field in Wallace Wade sooner than later. This is a marked departure from some recent recruiting hauls where speed was abundant, but so was the realization that it would take a while for a majority of freshmen to be to even factor in on the two-deep.

So which players should you keep an eye on heading into the summer sessions? Who may have an inside track at playing as a true freshman? Who will become the foundation for the defense in the years to come? Which defensive players were the biggest "gets"? Which under the radar commits will burst onto the scene? TDD offers our picks below.

Defensive Players - Signing Day Superlatives:

Biggest Commitment: Georgia defensive tackle John Drew enters Duke as a three star prospect, which may very well be under-rated. At 6-foot-3, 295 pounds there was an outside chance that Drew was going to see minutes early in the defensive rotation with the potential loss of three year starter Vince Oghobaase. With VO's return to Durham, Drew will likely get a chance to redshirt and really get to work on improving his strength and quickness while learning against a potential 1st Day NFL Draft pick every day in practice. In 2010 Drew could be a major factor along the interior of the Blue Devils' defensive line.

Most Likely To Be Seen In 2009: As with any program the real question here is where does the roster need immediate help. On the defensive side of the ball the answer appears to be with the linebackers - especially on the outside. Most likely Duke will send Vincent Rey into the middle of the field to replace departed All-ACC performer Mike Tauiliili, which will leave the two outside linebacker positions wide open heading into Spring practice and beyond with the graduation of Marcus Jones. There are a number of players on the roster currently who may very well earn time at those spots, but clearly the emphasis has been on improving the speed and size of the Blue Devil 'backers with the class of 2009.

Weston (Fla.) product Austin Gamble (6'1, 225, 4.67) could very well find himself moving up the 2-deep come late summer. The three star prospect enters the program with great size and speed and experience against some of the nation's top overall prep talent. Other potential options could include Justin Foxx who projects as a speed rusher off the end, but could find himself in a similar role to that of current Pittsburgh Steeler Patrick Bailey who played both outside linebacker and defensive end during his time at Duke.

Honorable Mention: In addition to the linebackers, the Blue Devils are also looking to add additional depth to the defensive back corps. As such players like Zach Greene, and Taylor Sowell could all challenge to push themselves into the rotational discussions come late August. The same could have been said for South Carolina defensive back Lex Butler, but a knee injury early in his season will probably require the Palmetto speedster to redshirt in 2009.

Walt Canty enters Duke as a player who could lineup at multiple defensive positions as well as a specialist. He could also morph into a speedy outside linebacker with some added weight and strength. He certainly made a big impression with his post season play which is why he is....

Biggest Steal of the Class: There is no doubt that Duke got a good one in Canty. After being overlooked by many high major programs, Canty's athleticism attracted the Duke coaching staff early enough to extend an offer. After a mid-November commitment, Canty moved onto the Shrine Bowl where he took home Defensive MVP honors - and subsequent offers from other program. At just under six feet and weighing 200lbs, Canty has 4.5 speed and has played in all three areas of the game over the course of his high school career. Once he settles on a position in Durham it's only a matter of time before he's on field on Saturdays.

Honorable Mention: Obviously Drew could be considered here as he was originally committed to Georgia Tech. Similar consideration goes to Raleigh (N.C.) defensive back Zach Greene whose father played for North Carolina State. The Wolfpack were in early on Greene and really worked hard, but eventually Cutcliffe and his staff were able to land the talented player. Another player who surprised many analysts in his choice of Duke was Maryland athlete Anthony Young-Wiseman who had offers from Maryland, Syracuse, and West Virginia. All it took was an unofficial visit to get the on board.

Complete Defensive Recruiting Class Breakdown:

DT: John Drew (6'3, 295)
DE: Brandom Putnam (6'4, 230); Justin Foxx (6'5, 215); Sydney Sarmiento (6'4, 250)
OLB: Austin Gamble (6'2, 225); Kevin Rojas (6'3, 210); Tyree Glover (6'2, 205, OLB)
CB: Taylor Sowell (6'0, 175); Zach Greene (5'10, 170); Ross Cockrell (6'0, 170); Lex Butler (5'11, 170)
S: Walt Canty (6'0, 200); August Campbell (6'2, 195); Garrett Patterson (6'0, 185); Anthony Young-Wiseman (6'1, 190, S)

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