Duke is thin at several positions, including linebacker and running back. Often, a team will shift players from a position of depth—such as Duke’s secondary—to try to fill holes elsewhere, but co-defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri says the Blue Devils haven’t resorted to that in training camp.
“We haven’t done any of that right now as far as a complete overhaul of positions,” he said. “But we’ve definitely in different packages put guys into spots and cross-trained them to try to make sure—always our goal is to have the best 11 on the field. It’s our job to do that however someone’s attacking us—they have extra hats in the box or extra hats in coverage, based on what guys are doing to us. No complete overhaul of position, but we’ve cross-trained.”
Guerrieri also discussed a candidate for breakout player on his defense.
“A guy that’s in middle of our defense,” he said. “You guys have seen Shaka Heyward play, but his growth from his first start against Alabama to where he is today. Tremendous growth, not only as a football player, physically and mentally but as a leader of our defense. He’s a guy that you’ll see—kind of the heart and soul of what we do in the middle of our defense. He has not disappointed throughout camp. He’s a young guy that you’ll see continue to grow and take a real leadership position.”
On area where Duke needs to improve on defense is against the run game.
“We’ve done a three-year study—’17, ’18 and ’19—similar systems, how we’ve performed against the run and pass,” he said. “Points against, third down. So we’ve done an extensive study in the down time we’ve had with players not on campus. Our run defense has been a big point of emphasis, shoring that up. We can’t just let somebody run the football against us. We’re making something that wasn’t as strong stronger while continuing to grow what we’ve done against the pass, making sure both those things are at a high, high level. Our strengths better still be strengths, while anything we’ve been weaker before has to become strength.”