Defensive Players - Signing Day Superlatives:
Biggest Commitment: Kelby Brown, a 6'2 215 pound linebacking prospect out of Charlotte comes to Duke with the reputation as a versatile prospect who has played each and every linebacking position as a high schooler. "He's a player who can really go sideline to sideline," said Coach Cutcliffe. "He's going to be doing a lot of that here at Duke." With speed being one of the potential shortcomings of the current linebacking group, it's easy to see why the Duke coaching staff is so excited to have beaten out a number of schools including UCLA, Louisville, Wisconsin, Syracuse, East Carolina, Northwestern, Arkansas, and Indiana for Brown. With good size and 4.6 forty speed, Brown may figure into the two-deep early in his career.
Tennessee prospect Dezmond Johnson is an intriguing prospect who is somewhat new to football and is tremendously athletic - as a big time basketball prospect. He's still learning the game, but in a year or two he may be part of a defensive line that can but a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks off the edge rush. Similarly, Jamal Wallace - a track star and emerging football talent - may bookend with Johnson in the future as Duke provides speed and tenaciousness off the other edge.
Most Likely To Be Seen In 2009: As dangerous as it sounds, the Blue Devils may very well be forced to go with one of the interior defensive linemen at times during the season. Duke has suffered a number of losses at the defensive tackle position - both planned and not - and now finds a gaping hope in that spot. Because of that look for a player such as Will Bryant to possibly play early. In his post-signing day press conference Cutcliffe spoke about Bryant's natural size - he's 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds - and how the game appears to be heading in that direction. Though he's got to trim up some, Bryant does have a very good motor and quick hands that will allow him to plug up the middle and battle with guards and centers alike. It's never easy for a freshman lineman to come in and be thrust into the mix, but Duke doesn't have many other options on the depth chart and of the four defensive tackles who committed, Bryant does have the most size.
Honorable Mention: While it's hard to see him breaking into the two-deep rotation, Quan Stevenson may very well figure in the kick return game. The High Point (N.C.) prospect holds the distinction as running the fastest forty time in Duke history this past summer when he ran a 4.28 at the summer camp. That kind of break away speed will certainly be needed as the Blue Devils look to improve their field position on kick offs and punts. It's an easy way for Stevenson to get on the field early. Such an entry into the field will likely help him find a spot on the two-deep at cornerback at some point.
Biggest Steal of the Class: Perhaps it's a player who has played all over the field from quarterback to tight to…defensive tackle at Duke. Nick Sink comes into Duke at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. And while he'll be learning a new position the Duke coaching staff likes his frame and the combination of natural size and speed. In the post-signing day presser Coach Cutcliffe said Sink's athleticism and hands will allow him to become quite a good pass rusher from either the interior or off the edge. While guys like Bryant and Steven Ingram have the natural size to plug the holes, a guys like Sink can use his speed and natural athleticism to create a different kind of disruption.
Honorable Mention: Most of what the Blue Devils appeared to be doing with regard to defensive prospects was taking naturally athletic players who need development and refinement in the various exercises and disciplines of the game. To that end Duke will bring in defensive tackle Jamal Bruce. Bruce comes into Duke as a small defensive tackle, but has drawn rave reviews from Cutcliffe for his "motor" and "aggressiveness". Similarly the Blue Devils welcome Clerance France as a potential middle linebacker for the future. In his senior season France made the switch to linebacker for the first time and began getting interest from a number of schools as his athleticism and speed seemed to take over at times.
Complete Defensive Recruiting Class Breakdown:
DT: Nick Sink (6'3, 250); Jamal Bruce (6'1, 245); Will Bryant (6'3, 310); Steven Ingram (6'3, 340)
DE: Dezmond Johnson (6'5, 215); Jamal Wallace (6'3, 210)
OLB: Kelby Brown (6'2, 215); Jordon Ondijo (6'4, 210); Clerance France (6'1, 215)
CB: Quan Stevenson (6'0, 185)