It’s back! For the third straight year, the N&O will count down the top 10 most important Duke football players for the upcoming season. Most important isn’t necessarily the best, but it’s a combination of individual skill, depth at a position and cruciality to success.
Duke football is currently on an unprecedented run of success, going bowling three straight years and winning 19 games over the past two seasons. And the schedule is favorable again this year, thanks in large part to divisional crossover games with Boston College and Wake Forest.
No. 3: Safety Jeremy Cash
Age: Redshirt Senior
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Last year’s stats: second-team all-ACC, 111 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 quarterback sacks, two interceptions, four caused fumbles
Cash is Duke’s best bet for a playmaker in the middle of the defensive field. While he is listed as a safety, he plays more like a hybrid safety/linebacker, frequently coming up close to the line of scrimmage and using middle linebacker-type instincts to go out and make plays. And he can drop back and cover receivers, too.
And all of this has taken on increased importance with the loss of linebacker Kelby Brown.
At this point, Cash’s backstory is familiar: he left Ohio State after his freshman year, sat out as a transfer during Duke’s 2012 bowl run, and, once he was able to get on the field, quickly established himself as the Blue Devils’ most athletic and most able defensive game-changer. That’s what Cash has done for two years, and his numbers from last year speak to that.
A returning captain, Cash is capable of playing the role of bell cow, using his play to motivate and fire up those around him. No one hits harder on the Duke defense, and his swagger, as the kids like to call it, is contagious.
No other safety can play the hybrid position quite like Cash does, so the Blue Devils’ whole defensive scheme is based around him being on the field. Without his ability to make plays in space, the whole 4-2-5 defense risks falling apart. That only adds to his importance to the team.
Previously in this series: