Duke Football

Duke may have filled void in defensive line

jalexander@newsobserver.comMarch 1, 2014 

— Replacing the production of Duke’s Kenny Anunike at defensive end might not be that difficult after all.

Redshirt senior defensive ends Dezmond Johnson and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo showed they were perfectly capable of getting to the quarterback and bringing down the ball carrier at Duke’s spring football game.

And it didn’t matter if the person with the ball was their own teammate. They hit hard anyway.

Johnson finished with four tackles and two sacks, while Brown finished with three tackles and two sacks for the blue team, some shoe string sacks, some were hits so hard, you’d wonder if the quarterback would get back up.

But whether the future replacements will be as consistent as Anunike was, only time will tell.

Anunike was the voice of the defense and had been there since David Cutliffe became Duke’s head coach in 2008.

“You know Kenny Anunike had a maturity for obvious reasons,” Coach Cutliffe said. “He’s been around here for a while. But he had a physical presence about him that he brought and he backed it up.

“The last two years he was here, he was a dominant guy as far as sacks and making tackles for losses and big plays.”

Coach Cutliffe said the key will be for linebackers and defensive linemen to take on a bigger role.

“We got to have more people step up and make big plays,” he said. “And we want to see us share that role, rather than one guy maybe dominating.”

The defensive line will also have to replace Justin Foxx at end. Together, Foxx and Anunike got after the quarterback and stuffed running backs in the backfield. The tandem combined for 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season.

DeWalt-Ondijo hopes that he can help fill that void.

“I would love to be a huge third-down threat,” DeWalt-Ondijo said. “I know it’s not all about third downs, but that’s what DEs (defensive ends) love. We love getting sacks.

“I want to help my team get off the field.”

Johnson agreed. He said he wouldn’t mind being a leader on the defense.

“Being an older guy, I feel like it’s my duty to step up and try to lead these D-lineman,” Johnson said.

He said with the lack of experience on the line, he needs to help the younger players get up to speed so that they can step up when needed.

“I believe the stronger the D-line, the stronger the defense,” Johnson said.

The Blue team’s defense was strong.

It dominated most of the game, helping the Blue team win 24-14 against a White team that featured younger players. The Blue defense sacked the quarterback five times and only allowed 83 passing yards.

Part of that was because redshirt sophomore quarterback Thomas Sirk could barely find his targets. He played the whole game at quarterback for the White squad and was either getting sacked or had his passes broken up. He was, however, effective on the ground, rushing for 71 yards.

The Blue Devils are hoping to get quality production from sophomore cornerback Breon Borders next season. He will become a starter in replacement of Garrett Patterson.

Borders didn’t disappoint.

Sirk rarely tested his side, and when he did, Borders deflected passes or Sirk overthrew them.

“It’s all about making plays, and that’s what I hope to do to help out my defense,” Borders said.

Senior quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette split time for the Blue team. Connette finished 11 of 16 for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 22 more yards. Boone finished 10 of 13 for 33 yards.

Junior running back Shaquille Powell led both teams in rushing with 75 yards on eight carries. He also scored one touchdown.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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