Duke will be without the ACC defensive player of the year for the Pinstripe Bowl against Indiana. All-American senior safety Jeremy Cash had right wrist surgery Wednesday morning, ending his Duke career.
“It’s really just so unfortunate because of the type of competitor, teammate and leader he is for our program,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in the release. "Jeremy’s incredible collegiate career should not have ended in Winston-Salem, but it did. As with every young man in our locker room, his health is what is most important. Going forward, we must continue our preparation for Indiana, and I know our team – and especially our defense – will embrace the challenge.”
Cash played through the injury for most of the year, wearing a splint on his right wrist. An MRI when he returned for bowl campus revealed more damage than he was anticipating, and, at that point, surgery was the best option for his future.
Cash earned first team All-American honors from every major outlet after posting 101 tackles, 18.0 tackles for lost yardage, 2.5 sacks, eight quarterback pressures, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery this season. He is the only player in Duke history to earn first, second or third team All-America accolades in three seasons. Cash is also Duke’s all-time leader in forced fumbles and one of 16 players to register 300-plus tackles in a career. He played his final three years for the Blue Devils after transferring from Ohio State.
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“It’s hard to swallow,” said Matt Guerrieri, Duke’s safeties coach. “I wanted to see him go out on top in a bowl game in Yankee Stadium.”
Redshirt junior Corbin McCarthy will take Cash’s hybrid safety-linebacker spot in Duke’s 4-2-5 defensive alignment. McCarthy filled in for Cash for the first half against Wake Forest, when Cash was suspended for a targeting ejection.
McCarthy started four games as a redshirt freshman, but he has seen his playing time diminish as the talent level at Duke has increased with each successive recruiting class. For the year, McCarthy has posted 11 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, one interception, one pass breakup and one quarterback pressure.
Against Wake Forest, McCarthy recorded zero tackles, one pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. In the second half alone, Cash had seven total tackles (five solo). The Blue Devils will also use DeVon Edwards at corner, as they did against the Demon Deacons, and Phillip Carter will start in Edward’s traditional safety spot.
Cash’s injury will make Duke’s attempt to win its first bowl game since the 1961 Cotton Bowl more challenging. In the bigger picture, though, it does give Duke a jump on preparing for a future without him.
“I walked into the room and Jeremy, for the first time, wasn’t in there,” Guerrieri said. “I said here we go, guys, this is the one senior that we don’t have. I’m sure we’ll have some freshmen coming in, but this is us for spring ball and this is us going forward into 2016 and what we have to expect. Jeremy has obviously been the voice of the room, and our team, for awhile, and you’ve seen that on the field.”
Cash was originally scheduled to participate in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30. His status for that game is yet to be determined, as it is dependent on his rehabilitation progress.