Injuries have already taken their toll on the linemen this fall. Tanner Stone has been lost for the season due to a knee injury and Casey Blaser had surgery to repair damage to his hand. Thanks to these injuries, Duke moved DT Sam Marshall (6-7, 285) over to play offensive tackle, a position his frame is much more suited for.
The defensive line will miss him but this move will have a minimal negative impact. Marshall wasn’t ripping through offensive lines and seems to have more long term potential as a tackle, rather than a tackler.
What remains behind on the defensive line is a unit that should see an uptick in their production from last season. Kenny Anunike returns after the NCAA granted him a waiver to compete for his sixth year. The defensive end missed nearly two full seasons of play due to knee injuries (He’s had five major surgeries). After moving from tight end, Anunike has 81 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and 9 sacks as a key end for the Duke line. Having his speed and physicality back means Duke will have an All-ACC contender disrupting opposing backfields.
The other starting defensive end, Justin Foxx, is also a redshirt senior who will be leaned on as a leader of this experienced unit. Foxx had knee surgery in January and missed spring practice but should be ready for the Bull City Classic. With 16 starts to his name, Foxx has registered 98 tackles, 11 for losses, and 7.5 sacks.
Between Foxx and Anunike, stands the third redshirt senior on the line. Sarmiento is the lines most seasoned player (tied for most starts among active ACC players, as well) having started 36 consecutive games. Despite his experience, the interior line position has long been a weakness for the Duke defense. Teams were able to find many gaps in the heart of the line and Sarmiento’s handful of tackles is a testament to that. If Duke is to improve this season, it has to start with Sarmiento and unproven Jamal Bruce, the starting nose guard.
Overall, up to 11 players will see action on the defensive line and, besides Anunike, there are spots to be had and snaps to be earned. The line certainly has size, athleticism, and experience and it has absolutely improved over the years. Still, this weakness will haunt Duke until they can turn it into a strength.
Veteran Leader: Kenny Anunike
Waiting To Breakout: Dezmond Johnson
Most Likely To Take A Starting Job: Keilin Rayner
2013 Projected Sacks Leader: Justin Foxx
Rising Star: Allen Jackson