Duke safety DeVon Edwards says there’s an easy way to explain Breon Borders’ 11 career interceptions.
“Breon is a twitchy person,” Edwards said Tuesday. “He’s a quick-twitcher.”
Borders is both quick and instinctual, with good hands and anticipation. A senior, the cornerback quickly recognizes pass patterns developing – a product of practice, video study and game experience – and reacts.
Borders picked off a pass Saturday as the Blue Devils opened the season with a 49-6 win over N.C. Central. While the ball was tipped and Borders was falling, he was able to corral it as he tumbled to the turf.
With 11 picks, Borders is tied for the lead among active Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players. Desmond King of Iowa, Weston Steelhammer of Air Force and Skai Moore of South Carolina also have 11.
“It’s because his focus is so keen,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He is into every millisecond of every play. When you stay keen with focus, it’s no different than that guy who seems to get every rebound because he doesn’t take his eye off anything.”
In that ball-hawking sense, Cutcliffe compared Borders to former Blue Devils linebacker Vincent Rey, who earned a spot in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“With those kind of people, it’s not an accident they get up around the ball,” Cutcliffe said. “There’s a focus and just a keen sense of the game. Breon is a fierce competitor.”
Borders said the interceptions are a simple matter of “being able to find the ball” — right place, right time.
“I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have so many interceptions and I should have more,” Borders said, smiling. “I’ve dropped four or five. And I’m going for another one this week.”
The Blue Devils, 1-0 for a fifth straight season, will open ACC play Saturday against Wake Forest at Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke won 27-21 to close the 2015 regular season, and while the Demon Deacons passed for more than 300 yards, Borders did have a pick in the game.
I’ve been blessed throughout my career to have so many interceptions and I should have more. I’ve dropped four or five. And I’m going for another one this week.
The Deacons again will give the Blue Devils different looks with quarterbacks John Wolford and Kendall Hinton. Wolford is the better thrower and Hinton a running threat who scored the Deacons’ only touchdown last week in a 7-3 win over Tulane in Wake’s opener.
“In the defensive backfield we’ve just got to limit the explosive plays,” Borders said. “They’ve got a pretty good group of receivers but we’re up for the challenge.”
Borders noted the Duke seniors are 3-0 against Wake Forest and want a fourth victory, adding, “We don’t necessarily like Wake Forest. We don’t want to lose to nobody, but it’s always something a little extra with Wake. We’ve dominated them since I’ve been here as a team and we plan on keeping it that way.”
Borders is from Statesville, and games against Wake Forest -- just 45 miles or so from his hometown -- have extra meaning.. He’s also a leader in an experienced secondary.
“They call themselves ‘Cheetahs’ and they hunt in the pack,” Cutcliffe said. “They all consider themselves leaders.”
Duke’s starting linebackers against N.C. Central were sophomore Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris, a redshirt freshman. Both played well but Humphreys said it’s reassuring to know the group behind them could cover up mistakes.
“It enables us to attack,” Humphreys said. “They’ll always have your back.”
Edwards and safeties Corbin McCarthy and Deondre Singleton are seniors, and cornerback Bryon Fields a redshirt junior. Borders, at 6 feet, is the tallest of the bunch, but they all can move, play off each other and play sound football.
And, in Borders’ case, picks off a lot of passes.