Jeremy Cash came to Duke blind in 2011, taking the advice of his former coach and agreeing to transfer from Ohio State before he had even seen the campus in Durham. Four years later, he has become the best defensive player in the ACC.
Cash, a redshirt senior safety, was named ACC defensive player of the year Wednesday, the first Blue Devils player to earn the award since it debuted in 1993. He is the first Duke player to win either of the player of the year awards since running back Robert Baldwin was the offensive and overall player of the year in 1994.
Cash, never short on confidence, was humbled by the selection.
“It’s a true testament to all the hard work we’ve put in as a program,” he said. “There are so many people that have helped me along the way to become the player and person I am today. It’s been a long journey over the course of these four years, and a lot of hard work has been put into it.”
Cash received 19 votes, ahead of Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson (13), Pittsburgh defensive end Ejuan Price (7), Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey (7), Louisville defensive end Sheldon Rankins (2), Virginia Tech defensive tackle Luther Maddy (1) and Virginia safety Quin Blanding (1).
In 12 games this season, Cash has recorded 101 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, eight quarterback pressures, four pass breakups, three caused fumbles and one fumble recovery. He amassed at least 100 tackles in all three seasons he has played at Duke and is the school’s career leader in caused fumbles with nine.
His tackles for loss number is what especially jumps off the page. No other defensive back has more than 12. Cash credits his success to film study, which allows him to know an opponent’s tendencies before he takes the field. Learning how to effectively watch film is something he has worked closely on with safeties coach Matt Guerrieri. The two learned about the position together – Guerrieri was a graduate assistant when Cash was redshirting.
“As a younger player, I really didn’t think all that much or take that into consideration,” Cash said of film study. “I would just go out there and practice and expect to be able to make those plays come Saturdays. But there is so much that goes into football outside of what you do on a practice field.”
Cash’s three years have coincided with the most successful run in Duke football history, winning 26 games in that span and playing in the 2013 ACC championship game.