Ohio State transfer Jeremy Cash making an instant impact for Duke footballJeremy Cash's most vivid memory on the field as an Ohio State football player came in the Buckeyes' 2011 matchup with Michigan. Wolverine wideout Jeremy Gallon fielded a first-quarter kickoff and returned it almost to midfield before Cash made the stop.
It would be his last tackle in an Ohio State uniform.
“That was Michigan. We played in the Big House," Cash said. "Running down on kickoff, that was pretty intense. That’s our rivalry school so that was a big game. I was happy to be out there.”
Despite playing in five games a true freshman for the Buckeyes, Cash's career in Columbus came to a quick end after the 2011 season.
The NCAA found that Ohio State players had been selling autographs, jerseys and rings for cash and tattoos, and the Buckeyes immediately felt the wrath of college football's governing body. Ohio State received a bowl ban for 2012, a reduction in the number of scholarships it could give and one year of probation. In the wake of the scandal, head coach Jim Tressel resigned under pressure from the university's administration.
With the state of the Buckeyes' program in jeopardy, Cash began to think about other options for his collegiate career.
"I had a revelation one day and put all my thoughts on paper and tried to think about what I really wanted out of life," Cash said. "I figured, based on my future, Duke would be a better fit for me.”
Although rumors swirled indicating that Cash might end up at Arkansas or LSU, in the end Tressel himself helped steer the Plantation, Fla., native to Durham. Cash ended up picking Duke instead of Miami and South Florida.
“[Duke] is a lot different, being it school size or fan base," Cash said. "But as far as programs, [Duke and Ohio State] are both pretty good programs with great head coaches."
The move from Ohio State to Duke wasn't just about the football program. For Cash, the benefits of a strong academic school also proved to be influential in his decision.
“I felt that football is going to handle itself. If you are good, they will find you," Cash said. "Education, you can’t beat Duke. That’s a top-tier school. That’s a change that needed to be made, I felt.”
After just two semesters in Columbus, Cash officially transferred in January of 2012 and made his way to Durham.
With the graduation of standout safety Matt Daniels in 2011, Cutcliffe tried to utilize Cash as soon as possible. After the NCAA initially declared him ineligible for the 2012 season, the Blue Devils appealed, but to no avail. Last August, just days before the opener against Florida International, Cash learned that he would not play football for Duke until 2013.
Instead, Cash spent the 2012 season watching home games from the sidelines and road games from inside Yoh Football Center with injured players and walk-ons, who also did not travel with the team.
Cash could have played in the Belk Bowl in December, since technically the NCAA ruling only benched him for the 2012 regular season. But he remained on the sidelines, thus saving an extra year of eligibility that would have been sacrificed by playing in the bowl game.
From November 2011, when Cash suited up against the Wolverines in his second-to-last game as a Buckeye, to Duke's season opener against N.C. Central in August, Cash went almost 21 months without playing in a collegiate football game. After the long road and all the waiting, the Blue Devils' new strike safety did not disappoint. Cash recorded six tackles, including one tackle-for-loss, and a pass breakup against the Eagles.
After proving himself to be a reliable presence in the defensive secondary in his first game, Cash continued to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with.
Cash had his breakout performance in week three against Georgia Tech, recording 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble. Cash added 12 more tackles to his total against Pittsburgh, and then recorded a team-high 14 tackles, and his first career interception, Sept. 28 against Troy. His performance against the Trojans earned him ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors.
After the many months of waiting and preparing, going from Columbus to Durham, sitting out a whole year and now starting as a redshirt-sophomore in Jim Knowles' 4-2-5 system, Cash is already making a name for himself not just in the ACC, but around the country. Cash's 10.2 tackles per game rank 15th in the nation and third among defensive backs, while his 51 tackles lead the conference.
For both the Blue Devils and for Cash himself, it seems that the transfer from Ohio State has paid off. Even after all the drama surrounding his early college career, Cash remains focused on the only thing that matters.
"There are a lot of distractions at any school you go to, so you just have to be focused on your outcomes and your main goals," Cash said. "I just go out there every down and try to help my team win.”