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Opponent Breakdown: Duke Blue Devils Defense

NCAA Football: Duke at Charlotte Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Duke football isn’t known for much but over the last decade or so their defense has had a handful of very good defensive players. Jeremy Cash, Chris Rumph, Michael Carter, Ben Humphrey are a few of the All-Conference and All-American level players that Duke has had at their disposal over recent years. The lack of big-time playmakers this year has led to one of the worst defensive units Duke has had in recent years.

The defensive front for Duke is where their problems begin. The Blue Devils allow 4.93 yards per carry and only have 19 sacks on the season. Ben Frye and Dewayne Carter are solid players while Roman Oben’s sone R.J. has great potential. But Duke gets nearly no production from any other players up front. With their struggles against the run and UofL wanting to sustain drives, the lack of depth could be a big factor on Thursday.

The one big-time player Duke has on defense Is Shaka Heyward. The 6-4/220 middle linebacker makes plays all over the field. His 11.5 tackles for loss are near the top of the ACC and he is always near the play when you watch Duke play. He can do a little bit of everything and Louisville has to make sure he doesn’t make the big plays that can swing a game.

Duke has had a handful of very good defensive backs in recent years and they are sorely missing those guys this season. While Duke is one of the best teams in the country in pass breakups, they are also allowing 9.3 yards per pass attempt. Duke is allowing opposing receivers to average 16.21 yards per catch on the season. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team allow that high of an average before.

Josh Blackwell is the player in the secondary that stands out to me. He has really good speed that helps him at least stay in the play on throws down the field. Lummie Young is another strong performer. He leads the team in pass breakups from his rover spot and he is second on the team in tackles. The lack of strong safety play bodes well for Louisville as they were able to expose Syracuse last week and should be able to do the same this week.