The top 10 Duke football players you need to know for 2016. These are the Blue Devils stars to watch out for.
1. CB DeVon Edwards, Sr.
Edwards is the only returning Duke defender who received any all-league honors in 2015. He was named honorable mention for making 101 tackles and six pass breakups form safety. But now the 5-9, 175-pound veteran of 33 career starts is moving to cornerback this offseason. If Edwards’ instincts and physicality can be leveraged to neutralize some of the better receivers on the schedule, he’s going to climb up the ACC pecking order among DBs.
2. QB Thomas Sirk, Sr.
The Blue Devils suffered a potentially crushing blow when Sirk ruptured his Achilles during a Feb. 9 conditioning workout. The timetable for his return is unknown at this point, meaning junior Parker Boehme stepped into the spotlight in the spring. In 2015, the 6-4, 220-pound Sirk powered his way to a team-high 803 yards and eight scores on the ground. And as a passer, he showed improvement by completing 251-of-427 throws for 2,625 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Fingers are crossed he’ll return at some point this season.
3. DT A.J. Wolf, Sr.
Wolf is the team’s only returning starter up front, so he’ll be counted on to be one of the defense’s physical and emotional leaders. He was solid in his first season in the lineup, notching 54 tackles and four stops for loss, solid numbers for an interior lineman. Wolf moves extremely well for a 6-4, 280-pounder, the kind of agile lineman who could also play outside in a 3-4 alignment.
4. OT Casey Blaser, Sr.
With the graduation of C Matt Skura, Blaser is set to become the headliner of the Blue Devil front wall. The 6-5, 285-pounder with the good footwork started all 13 games a season ago, earning honorable mention All-ACC along the way. Blaser is durable, heady and effective at sealing the edge, the hallmarks of a tackle whose career might continue on Sundays.
5. S Deondre Singleton, Sr.
Forget that Singleton is only 5-11 and 180 pounds. He’s the most physical and active member of the Duke secondary now that Jeremy Cash is off to the NFL. Singleton is a scrappy performer from bandit safety, the centerfielder of the team’s defensive backfield. He makes quick breaks off the snap, flying downhill in 2015 to make 79 stops, six tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and a pair of forced fumbles.
6. CB Breon Borders, Sr.
Borders is back for his third season as a starter, intent on remaining the program’s top cover corner. He’s led the Blue Devils in interceptions in each of the past two years and has 10 for his career. The 6-0, 180-pound Edwards is also an active member of the run defense, making 56 tackles and four stops behind the line to go along with his team-best nine pass breakups.
7. WR T.J. Rahming, Soph.
The Devils are in the market for a No. 1 receiver, a void Rahming and 6-5 senior Anthony Nash are hoping to fill. Rahming had one of the best seasons ever by a Duke rookie receiver, catching 43 passes for 571 yards and two touchdowns. Against Virginia alone, he caught a dozen balls for 190 yards. While only 5-10 and 165 pounds, Rahming is very quick in and out of his breaks and difficult to corral in the open field.
8. OG Tanner Stone, Sr.
Without a lot of attention, Duke continues to develop formidable blocking units. Stone performed well in his first season as a starter, appearing in more snaps than any other Blue Devil. He was steady as a run blocker and even better at keeping the pocket clean. And at 6-6 and 300 pounds, Stone has the size to flirt with all-league and professional consideration if he continues to develop and a nagging back injury doesn’t cap his potential.
9. LB Tinashe Bere, Soph.
Duke loses a quality linebacker in Dwayne Norman. Bere is poised to begin picking up some of the slack. He laid a terrific foundation a season, starting six games and finishing fifth on the team with 58 tackles. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, Bere is classically built for the inside, but he has the range and the coverage skills to handle weakside as well for the Blue Devils.
10. RB Jela Duncan, Sr.
Now that Shaquille Powell has graduated and QB Thomas Sirk is injured, the Blue Devils are searching for running backs to handle the ground game. Duncan and Shaun Wilson, who both surpassed 100 yards in the Pinstripe Bowl, will be vying for reps. The former, a 5-10, 215-pound bull between the tackles, has rushed for 1,574 yards and 11 scores in his career, and is an underrated receiver out of the backfield.