It is no secret that Duke was a mess on the defensive side of the ball in 2021 and that is one of the reasons they wanted to hire a defensive-minded head coach like Mike Elko. Elko helped to lead some of the best defenses in the country while at Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and most recently, Texas A&M.
Every level of the Blue Devils' defense is going to need work if they are going to improve this season. Duke could not stop Georgia Tech in their matchup last season and if the Blue Devils have any hope of winning the game in Atlanta this year, these three players are going to have to make a difference for Duke.
Duke Blue Devils Defense
Duke Blue Devils Defense
Duke Defensive End R.J. Oben
Duke Linebacker Shaka Heyward
Duke Defensive Tackle DeWayne Carter
DeWayne Carter- Defensive Tackle
Duke had one of the worst pass rushes not only in the ACC but in the country. If they hope to make an improvement on that mark, their second-leading pass rusher from last season, defensive tackle DeWayne Carter, is going to have to play a big role in that.
The 6-3 300 LBS Junior is hoping to have a big season for the Blue Devils. Carter totaled 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks for a poor Duke defense last season. A defense that has a strong interior pass-rushing talent can be game-changing and Duke is hoping that is what they have in Carter.
Shaka Heyward- Linebacker
Shaka Heyward was by far the best linebacker on Duke's defense last season and led the team with 97 tackles. The next leading tackler only had 64, which shows how much more Heyward was around the ball than some of the other Duke defenders.
Heyward is the best when he is tasked with stopping the run and at 6-4 220 LBS, the senior linebacker can bring physicality when tackling ball carriers. Georgia Tech is planning to be a run-heavy team this fall and Heyward will need to be a playmaker for the Blue Devils in this game.
While Carter might be the most important player on the interior for Duke, defensive R.J. Oben is the guy that is going to have to come off the edge for Elko's defense. Oben has the size and length at 6-4 255 LBS to be a potential difference-maker against the Yellow Jackets passing game and pairing up with Carter to have a big game would be huge for Duke.
Oben is coming off of a year in which he led the team in sacks with five and had 26 tackles. He is the most productive pass rusher for Duke and one that is going to need to be a leader for Duke in 2022.
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