Three former Duke football players we wish we could add to the 2024 defense

If these former Duke football players could be added to the 2024 defense, it would make a huge difference.
Duke v Florida State
Duke v Florida State / Don Juan Moore/GettyImages

2024 brings on a new era of Duke football. Manny Diaz has arrived to lead the program and with him comes the expectation that he will field a strong defense.

Diaz is known for the defenses that he has crafted throughout his career. In fact, he's considered one of the brightest defensive minds in the game.

A 2022 Broyles Award semifinalist (an award given annually to the top assistant coach in the country), he arrives after quite the run as Penn State's defensive coordinator. In fact, Since 2016, Diaz’s defenses have been a force behind the line of scrimmage ranking in the top-10 nationally in tackles for loss each year at No. 2 in 2023 (8.4), No. 5 in 2022 (8.0 per game), No. 9 in 2021 (7.75), No. 4 in 2020 (8.6), No. 4 in 2019 (8.3), No. 1 in 2018 (10.5), No. 4 in 2017 (8.5) and No. 5 in 2016 (8.3) (according to

As for the Blue Devils, they enter the upcoming season after a solid defensive showing in 2023. Ranking 41st nationally in total defense, the Blue Devils gave up an average of 352.7 yards per game last fall.

There are questions about this season's defense, though. That's because the program lost all four starting defensive linemen plus linebacker Dorian Mausi and safety Brandon Johnson.

Diaz has gone to the transfer portal to bring in six defensive players to help fill the gaps this year. That's the realistic way of replenishing the talent on the roster. However, it is fun for fans to think about what life would be like if the following former Blue Devils could be added to the 2024 defense as well.

2000-03. Ryan Fowler. Ryan Fowler. . Linebacker. 434. player. Duke. . 1

The backbone of most defenses is the linebacking corps. That's why adding one of the best players to ever play that position in Durham, Ryan Fowler, would be a great luxury.

In fact, he'd be nice to put in place of Mausi who had 61 tackles (3.5 for loss) last season. In all, Mausi ended his time at Duke with 193 tackles before transferring to Auburn for his final season of college football.

Fowler would be the perfect replacement. After all, he is third in Duke history with 495 career tackles.

A four-year starter, Fowler amassed at least 87 tackles in every season at Duke. What's more, he had well over 100 tackles in each of his final three seasons.

Versatility was one of his strengths as he played two years at outside linebacker and two years at inside linebacker. That would also be a nice trait to add to this year's defense.

In all, Fowler ended up with 47.5 tackles for loss. That type of disruption would be something Diaz would love to have at his disposal as well.

Duike. . Victor Dimukeje. Victor Dimukeje. 2. . 2017-20. player. 434. Outside Linebacker

Every team needs a pass rush. Last year, Duke was 56th nationally but only 8th in the ACC in sacks per game at 2.2.

The problem, though, is that both of last season's leading sack artists, Aeneas Peebles and R.J. Oben are both gone. Between them, they recorded 10.0 sacks last year with each registering five apiece.

Thus, if Duke could bring back Victor Dimukeje, it would be a great addition to this year's defense. That's because he's one of the best pass rushers the program has seen in the modern era.

Starting every one of his 49 career games at Duke, he racked up 21.5 sacks. That total is good for second in Duke history, 0.5 sacks behind Charles Bowser.

With 166 career tackles, 36.0 tackles for loss, one INT, five caused fumbles, three fumble recoveries, three pass breakups, and 28 QB pressures he was a two-time All-ACC selection (2019-20). What's more, he was a 2017 freshman All-American.

That level of pass rusher is tough to find in college football. That's why Diaz would love to add Dimukeje to his team this fall.

Vince Ojhobaase. . 2006-09. 434. Duke. . player. 3. Defensive Tackle. Vince Ojhobaase

With four new starting defensive linemen anchoring the defense up front this season, there are plenty of questions to be answered along the line of scrimmage. That's why Diaz would love to have Vince Ojhobaase on his roster.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle was a freshman All-American in 2006 and a Sporting News third-team All-American in 2009. He was also an All-ACC selection as a junior and senior.

Getting tons of statistical productivity from defensive tackles is uncommon. That's why Ojhobaase's 164 career tackles stand out. He also ended his Duke tenure with 14.0 sacks, a high number for an interior defensive lineman.

Defensive tackles are key in helping stop the run as well. Last year, Diaz's defense at Penn State actually led the nation in rushing defense by allowing 75 yards per game.

He won't have the level of talent at Duke this year that he had in Happy Valley last season, though. In fact, given the remake of the defensive line that he's undertaking, one has to be concerned about Duke's ability to stop the run in 2024. If only Ojhobaase were still on the roster, it would help ease those legitimate concerns.