The N&O’s countdown of the top 10 most important Duke football players continues.
No. 6: Defensive tackle Carlos Wray
2014 stats: 39 tackles, three quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss.
Getting a decent push along the defensive line annually ranks as one of the biggest challenges for Duke. And that makes sense – linemen, with their necessary combination of size and athleticism, are the hardest to find in recruiting.
Carlos Wray is Duke’s only returning starter on the defensive line – he started all 13 games last season – and he is the most experienced of the remaining players by a wide margin. That, combined with the premium on the position, makes him especially important when planning for team success.
Wray ranked second among Duke’s defensive linemen last year (behind Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo) with 39 tackles. Duke will need him to get in the backfield more to help make up for DeWalt-Ondijo’s 71/2 tackles for loss, so expect that to be a point of emphasis for him in camp. Wray has continued to improve his strength – in post-spring evaluations, he ranked second overall with a bench press of 415 pounds. At 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, he has the body to battle in the trenches.
The odds of success on defense increase significantly with strong play up front. If the linemen are able disrupt the desired rhythm of the offense, quarterbacks could be forced to rush throws or running backs could be swallowed up in the backfield. That makes the linebackers’ lives easier, and it helps the secondary. It’s a cascading effect, and Wray is the best bet to start the wave.
Previously in this series: