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X-Factor: Duke football must rely on Joiner to limit explosive Hurricane receivers

Duke dropped 2021's season-closing game to the Hurricanes 47-10.
Duke dropped 2021's season-closing game to the Hurricanes 47-10.

As the Blue Devils head to Coral Gables, Fla., for a Saturday afternoon date with Miami and its explosive offense, the Blue Zone is here to provide a player on both sides that could make the difference:

Duke: Darius Joiner, S

On a Duke defense led by star power on the defensive line, safety Darius Joiner has quietly established himself as one of the best secondary defenders in college football. Joining the Blue Devils after winning FCS All-American recognition at Western Illinois last year, the Roanoke, Ala., native has proved his mettle against tougher competition. He currently has 40 solo tackles this season, good for 12th in the nation and third-best in the ACC. He also holds one bulldozing interception to his name, running through a Virginia receiver to snatch the ball away

Joiner was absolutely everywhere last Saturday against North Carolina. He contributed with 11 total tackles, six of them solo efforts. His best contribution came late in the second quarter, where Joiner hawked towards the ball to save an easy touchdown after a busted coverage on a go-route. 

After three games in a row against mobile quarterbacks, Duke finally faces a traditional pocket passer in Miami gunslinger Tyler Van Dyke. While Van Dyke has not seen success on the ground, he has thrown for 1,647 passing yards and nine touchdowns, including a 342-yard game last weekend against Virginia Tech. For the Blue Devils to limit the Hurricanes’ whirlwind in the air, Joiner must continue to anchor Duke’s secondary. 

Miami: Colbie Young, WR

The Miami wideout corps was visited by injury early when it lost Xavier Restrepo for six weeks after a brutal game against Texas A&M. Over the last two weeks, however, the Hurricanes’ air raid has been on full blast, gaining 847 yards, partially thanks to the emergence of young wide receiver Colbie Young. 

After not seeing the field the first four weeks of the season, the 6-foot-5 sophomore from Binghamton, N.Y., has burst onto the scene as the next man up. He instantly became the go-to vertical threat for Van Dyke. Young uses his big frame to go up and attack the ball, giving Miami a dynamic weapon that adds an extra element to offensive coordinator Josh Gattis’ offense.

Last week against the Hokies, Young exploited the Virginia Tech secondary, grabbing nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Early in the contest, he displayed that ability, hauling in a 37-yard reception with one hand as the defender gripped his other arm. Duke struggled against the deep ball last week, allowing North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye to average 13.6 yards per completion. For the Blue Devils to escape Hard Rock Stadium with a win, it will be vital to not allow the long pass to beat them. To do that, they must keep Young in close coverage.

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