Duke Football Preview: Linebackers


Oct 22, 2011; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils linebacker Kelby Brown (59) defends against Wake Forest Demon Deacons wide receiver Chris Givens (2) during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

So many careers have started out as wild successes only to come crashing down to a bitter shell of that promise. Kelby Brown is aiming to be better than that.

Brown started out as a widely disregarded linebacker by recruiting services as he chugged away on the field at Charlotte Christian. Only Rivals had him listed as a viable All-ACC player someday when they slotted him into the 36th spot on their outside linebacker list.

Still, few expected him to flash his talents so early. As a freshman in 2010, Brown finished third in the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year ballot despite only playing nine games. He was still recovering from an injury to start the year and then the promise he showed in the next two months was taken. Brown tore his ACL against Georgia Tech. Even though his missed three games, Brown was named to the 4th team Freshman All-America team by Phil Steele.

He came back healthy enough to play in the 2011 season when he won the Mike Curtis Award as Duke’s most outstanding linebacker. He played and started 10 games that year (missing Virginia and Georgia Tech) and finished third in tackles and first in tackles for loss.

His knee was never quite right and he would have surgery on it that caused him to miss the entire 2012 season.

His return to the linebacking group is sorely needed as Duke got limited production from the linebackers last year. They depended on the line to make stops and the secondary to bail them out. With that experience gone behind them, they will need to step up their efforts to prevent opponents from getting to the second level.

Joining Brown will be fellow redshirt junior, C.J. France. Duke will utilize the 4-2-5 again this year meaning the play of France and Brown will be instrumental in stopping the run. France was the most dependable of the corp last year, starting in ten games, and winning the newly named Vincent Rey award as Duke’s top linebacker.

The strength of the unit this season, however, is the depth. Sophomore Deion Williams and redshirt soph Mario Sanders give Duke powerful speed and size. Sanders shifts back off the line where he played as a defensive end his first two seasons.

David Helton, a 6-4, 235 hawk, will be poaching snaps this year as the junior is one of the more experienced returners and shows good speed and awareness of the ball. Pairing Helton and Sanders together would give Duke a unique advantage in size and speed behind the line.

Lastly, Kyler Brown, Kelby’s brother, is a similarly built backer to Helton with all of his brother’s instincts. As a redshirt freshman last season, Kyler registered 51 tackles and broke up 3 passes, and played in 12 of the 13 games. You should expect to see the Brown, nay Bash Brothers a lot this fall and often on the field together.

Veteran Leader: Kelby Brown

Waiting To Breakout: Deion Williams

Most Likely To Take A Starting Job: David Helton

2013 Projected Tackles Leader: Kelby Brown

Rising Star: Mario Sanders