Door opens to playing time for Duke KR-S DeVon Edwards
While it’s not the manner in which he wanted to get the chance, Duke redshirt freshman DeVon Edwards finds himself with an increasing role for the Blue Devils this week.
Freshman safety Deondre Singleton is serving a one-game suspension for missing academic obligations. Freshman wide receiver and kick returner Johnell Barnes broke his hand in a Sept. 29 fight at Shooters II.
Because of their off-field issues, Edwards is taking over Barnes’ kick-return duties and could see more playing time on defense with Singleton out when Duke plays Navy on Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL) at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“You never know what can happen,” Edwards said.
After redshirting last season, Edwards has returned one kick this season for the Blue Devils while serving as a reserve at cornerback and safety on defense.
This week in practice, he’s taking repetitions as Duke’s top kick returner with sophomore running back Shaquille Powell as the secondary returner.
While Barnes has averaged 20.4 yards per return, Cutcliffe said Edwards is a threat as well.
“He is a dynamic runner with the football,” Cutcliffe said. “He is very good with the football. He is explosive, he’s fast and he’s quick.”
Cutcliffe said a glance at game film from Edwards’ days at Alcovy High School in Covington, Ga., is convincing enough. Edwards averaged 41 yards per kickoff return and brought four back for touchdowns.
“They stopped kicking it to him,” Cutcliffe said with a chuckle.
Edwards’ previous special teams experience could help him his return role as well. Before being moved to returner, he played up front on the kick-return team.
“I play the front line so I know what happens up front,” Edwards said. “That will give me a better chance for a read before I hit the hole.”
On defense, Duke will get starting safety Dwayne Norman back this week. Before Duke’s bye week, Norman missed the 38-31 win over Troy on Sept. 28 with a leg injury.
Corbin McCarthy and Jeremy Cash will start at the other safety positions.
With Singleton, who started in place of Norman, out, Edwards may get more playing time there in a reserve role. After playing cornerback in spring practice and preseason camp, Edwards was asked to learn the safety positions in late August.
Cutcliffe is happy with his progress.
“We moved him from corner to safety and he’s getting more and more comfortable back there,” Cutcliffe said.
Edwards is glad to do whatever he can to help Duke.
“The more everybody knows,” Edwards said, “the better for the defense.”