Brown injury spurs Duke defensive changes
Duke coordinators Jim Knowles and Scottie Montgomery held teleconferences with reporters on Thursday morning. Here are some of the highlights:
LB Shuffle – In light of Kelby Brown’s season-ending knee injury earlier this week, David Helton is shifting from weak-side linebacker to middle linebacker.
Last season, Helton led the ACC in tackles with 133 while Brown had 114. Brown’s role also included serving as the quarterback of the defense, making sure people were lined up correctly.
Knowles said Helton, a senior, must add those duties with his move to middle linebacker.
“We’re going to be OK,” Knowles said. “David will step up and he will assume that mantle.”
As for Helton’s old weak-side slot, redshirt senior C.J. France, redshirt freshman Chris Holmes and true freshman Zavier Carmichael are candidates for playing time, Knowles said.
Holmes has been slowed by a tight hamstring but he impressed the coaching staff in his move from safety last spring.
“He’s got all the tools,” Knowles said. “Everything that you would look for in a (weak-side) linebacker. The size to be able to play up there.”
Carmichael has shown to be a heavy-hitter during the less than two weeks Duke has practiced this month.
New roles for Cash, Norman – In addition to the movement on the linebacker depth chart, Knowles said some formations will call for safeties Jeremy Cash or Dwayne Norman to line up as linebackers.
Duke’s depth and athleticism at the position, Knowles said, allows for the coaching staff to be creative as they seek to make up for the loss of Brown, an all-ACC linebacker.
Newcomers in secondary – True freshmen Zach Muniz and Alonzo Saxton worked with the second-team defense at cornerback positions in Monday’s scrimmage.
Last year, Breon Borders and Bryon Fields stepped in as freshmen to impact Duke’s defense positively. Knowles expects Muniz and Saxton to do the same this season.
Brown surgery – Speaking of Brown, he had surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee on Wednesday. It’s the third time he’s needed surgery, although the first two times were for torn ACLs in his right knee.
Knowles was among the Duke football personnel to visit Brown in the hospital.
“It’s a very emotional time for all of us,” Knowles said. “He’s alive and well but in terms of our team and our defense, there certainly were shockwaves. You have to acknowledge that.”
Defensive line status – Duke is replacing three starters along its defensive line. You can read more about that here: http://www.heraldsun.com/sports/x571856805/New-faces-up-front-no-strangers-to-Duke-defense …
Knowles said the progress of that unit is a strong point. He went so far as to say that the development of depth along the defensive line is "a huge success right now."
In addition to Carlos Wray, Dezmond Johnson and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo fulfilling starting roles, Knowles likes what he’s seeing from guys like Kyler Brown, Mike Ramsay and A.J. Wolf.
Deaver’s return – Redshirt senior tight end Braxton Deaver was second on the team in receptions (46) and yardage (600) last season.
Duke expects him to be a weapon in the offense again, but Deaver is still catching up after missing the first week of practice for disciplinary reasons.
Deaver wasn’t allowed to participate in Monday’s scrimmage because he hadn’t had enough practices to be cleared for full-contact work. Montgomery wasn’t sure Thursday if Deaver will be cleared for Friday’s closed scrimmage.
But Montgomery did say that Deaver’s work has pleased the staff.
“There is time that is lost,” Montgomery said. “We have to get that back. He understands our offense but there are curveballs we have put in. He has come in and worked every day. He knows what we are trying to get accomplished. I’m really, really pleased with what he’s trying to become.”
Fewer miscues – One of head coach David Cutcliffe’s criticisms from Monday’s scrimmage was the number of unforced errors committed by an offense that’s expected to be among the ACC’s best.
Montgomery said those issues are being addressed in practice this week.
“We have to make sure we clean that up,” Montgomery said. “We’ve done a good job the rest of the week of making the plays we are supposed to make.”
Behind Boone… -- While Anthony Boone is the clear starter at quarterback for Duke this season, the two guys behind him have yet to take a snap in a college football game.
Redshirt sophomore Thomas Sirk and redshirt freshman Parker Boehme will serve as Boone’s primary backups. Sirk worked with the second-team offense in Monday’s scrimmage.
Montgomery said Sirk is a complete player with the ability to do positive things in the running and passing games. At the same time, he called Boehme perhaps Duke’s most accurate passer.