DURHAM — Duke will beat No.1 Florida State in the ACC title game.
Jeremy Cash believes this, he truly does. To tell him otherwise is a waste of oxygen.
The All-ACC safety, who is cut straight from the south Florida We invented swagger mold, only knows one way to think.
You have to be confident, Cash said. Not arrogant or cocky, but just have confidence in your ability and your teammates and your coach. I have that.
Cash flashes a big smile when he says this. You have to be confident in your ability to get where Cash was, an Ohio State transfer, to where Duke is.
Cash brings a mentality thats rare, Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. Hes a guy thats never going to back down from a challenge, it doesnt matter who it is.
The next challenge that awaits Cash and the 28-point underdog Blue Devils is Florida State, the highest-scoring, most dominant team in ACC history.
Fine with Cash, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore who grew up in Plantation, Fla., and played against a slew of Seminoles before he got to college.
Receiver Rashad Green and Kelvin Benjamin, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner Cash ticks through the list of star FSU players he knows from south Florida.
Theyre good athletes, but so are we, Cash said. I just hope they dont sleep on us.
Duke and swag had never intersected before like they do with Cash and this defense. No one symbolizes the new Duke, the 10-game winners and Coastal Division champs, more than Cash.
As a hybrid safety-linebacker, he plays the most important role in Dukes 4-2-5 alignment. He has the physical attributes the speed to cover receivers, the strength to make big hits to play the position, but its his confidence that makes him special.
I approach every situation where I expect to win, Cash said. It might not always happen, but I expect it to happen.
If you go in there and think, Well, maybe it will happen, it wont happen. You have to believe mentally or you wont do it physically.
With the explosion of spread offenses in the college game, the need for defenders who can play against the run and pass, with equal dexterity, becomes essential.
This particular defense with four linemen, two linebackers and five backs doesnt really work without a player like Cash, who as coaches like to say, can tackle in space.
Its a tough position to play because you have to do it all, Brown said. I can only do one of things but Cash is different.
How different is Cash? He goes by the philosophy: When life gives you lemons, make grape juice and and let everyone wonder how you did it.
Hes different good, hes different as in every time you look at the bottom of the pile, hes there different.
He carries himself like hes the best player on the team, Dukes All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell said. When you go out there and play like that, you have my respect.
Cash leads the Blue Devils with four interceptions and 56 solo tackles (his 109 tackles are second on the team). He also has forced two fumbles from what Duke calls the strike safety position.
Hes a difference-maker because hes a playmaker, coach David Cutcliffe said.
A four-star recruit out of Plantation High in 2010, he picked Ohio State because he wanted to play for coach Jim Tressel.
Cash got to Ohio State in 2011, but never got to play for Tressel, who was fired four months for before the season started. Cash spent his freshman season at Ohio State and played in five games for interim coach Luke Fickell.
When Ohio State hired former Florida coach Urban Meyer as Tressels full-time replacement, Cash knew his career with the Buckeyes was over.
Of all the Division I programs in the state of Florida, only one Meyers Gators did not offer Cash a scholarship out of Plantation. His high school coach, and Tressel himself, pointed Cash toward Duke and Cutcliffe.
As Cutcliffe described it, He didnt know me from Adam. Cash, who had to redshirt last season under NCAA rules, and the coach have grown closer. The two are now inextricably connected by Dukes amazing turnaround.
I think Jeremy has gotten better on and off the field, Cutcliffe said. I think Jeremy has grown as a young man and a football player.
When Cash decided to transfer to Duke, he understood the skepticism about his choice, going from a traditional college power to a traditional college project.
Coming here, most people thought: He cant play, Cash said. I just let my play silence all the doubters.
An All-ACC sophomore season has already proven most of his doubters wrong. Theres nothing Cash wants more than to defy the odds one more time with the ACC title as the reward.