With the 2019 season right around the corner, The Chronicle breaks down each of the eight major position groups: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers and specialists.
Ever since the hiring of co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Ben Albert three years ago, defensive line has been a fairly strong suit for the Blue Devils, and this year’s squad appears to be no different. By retaining its core group of starters while remaining deep at each position, Duke appears geared for another successful season up front.
Key players lost: Axel Nyembwe
The Blue Devils are fortunate enough to return all four starters from last season as well as the majority of key rotation players, which contributes to the depth of this year’s group. The biggest loss comes from defensive tackle Axel Nyembwe, who played in all 13 games last season, including one start against Pittsburgh. He recorded a season-high three tackles in Duke’s victory against Miami.
Projected starters: Victor Dimukeje, Drew Jordan, Edgar Cerenord, Derrick Tangelo
This year’s defensive line will once again be anchored by defensive end Victor Dimukeje, a junior who has started every possible game in his first two years in Durham. Last season’s Mike McGee Award recipient as the team’s best defensive lineman, Dimukeje enters 2019 eighth in the ACC in career tackles for loss. Both senior Tre Hornbuckle and junior Drew Jordan are listed on the depth chart as potential starters for week one at the other defensive end spot, and they will likely rotate snaps throughout the season.
At defensive tackle, Edgar Cerenord is listed as the starter against Alabama, a surprising development considering that he was not expected to be ready so quickly. The sixth year athlete ruptured his Achilles tendon last season, causing him to miss nine games and allowing him to extend his eligibility. Should he not be fully healthy, redshirt senior Trevon McSwain—his replacement from last year—will fill in. Junior Derrick Tangelo will get the starting nod at the other tackle spot after a 2018 stat line of 46 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Dark horse: Chris Rumph II
Chris Rumph II showed flashes of brilliance last year as a reserve defensive end, highlighted by four tackles for loss against Georgia Tech, tied for the single-game Duke freshman record. The Blue Devils’ defensive coordinators have been impressed by Rumph’s big play ability and indicated their interest in designing packages to increase his opportunities on the field, so the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder could be in for a potential breakout year.
Come back tomorrow as we break down Duke's defensive backs.
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