Duke Now

Top 10 most important Duke football players: No. 10 Will Monday

Duke's Will Monday punts during their game against Florida International Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC on Sept. 1, 2012.
Duke's Will Monday punts during their game against Florida International Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC on Sept. 1, 2012. cseward@newsobserver.com

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 how crucial a player is 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 season, thanks in large part to divisional crossover games with Boston College and Wake Forest. Now, to this year’s list.

No. 10: Punter Will Monday

Class: Redshirt senior

2014 stats: Third-team all-ACC, third best in the ACC with an average of 43 yards per punt, 17 of 59 punts downed inside the 20, against eight touchbacks.

Anyone who has spent any amount of time talking football with Duke coach David Cutcliffe realizes how much he values special teams. He takes a personal interest in the development and progress of his punters and kickers, and that’s because he knows special teams can be the difference in close games.

With question marks surrounding an unproven offense, field position will be especially important – if the offense isn’t moving the ball at will, something else will have to set the table for the defense. Monday can do that. He has a strong leg – remember the 79-yard punt in the Belk Bowl – and the capability to drop the ball inside the 20 without sending it into the end zone. Last year was personally trying for Monday, as an uncle died of cancer and his mother was diagnosed with the same disease, and his performance wasn’t quite as steady as it had been in years past. Duke coaches are undoubtedly hoping for a return to form this season.

Also noteworthy: Monday is the holder on the field goal unit. Any inconsistency in that role will leave points off the scoreboard in a hurry.

Punters are like officials – good ones don’t draw much attention, but make a mistake, and it’s easy to see. And they are in short supply, as Monday is the only scholarship punter on Duke’s roster. The ability to flip field position with a long punt could be a crucial ingredient to potential success this season.

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As a refresher, here are the lists from the past two years:

2013 (10-4, ACC Coastal champions, Peach Bowl participant)

10. S Jeremy Cash

9. C Matt Skura

8. K Ross Martin

7. P Will Monday

6. DE Kenny Anunike

5. QB Brandon Connette

4. RG Laken Tomlinson

3. CB Ross Cockrell

2. LB Kelby Brown

1. QB Anthony Boone

2014 (9-4, Sun Bowl participant)

10. LT Takoby Cofield

9. P Will Monday

8. S Jeremy Cash

7. RBs Shaquille Powell and Josh Snead

6. DB/Kick returner DeVon Edwards

5. C Matt Skura

4. RG Laken Tomlinson

3. LB Kelby Brown

2. WR Jamison Crowder

1. QB Anthony Boone