Durham, NC – Duke was back in action Friday as its spring football practice officially kicked off with a two-hour session at the Brooks Practice Facility.
The Blue Devils worked out in helmets for the first day and focused on special teams, positional drills and 1-on-1 action between the offense and defense.
DUKE GANG BACK AT IT ????????#DukeGang | #GoDuke pic.twitter.com/4hEmRxwdJ6 — Duke Football (@DukeFOOTBALL) February 26, 2021
WE. ARE. BACK.
??????????????#DukeGang | #GoDuke pic.twitter.com/mHi39sI71w — Duke Football (@DukeFOOTBALL) February 26, 2021
Duke will return to the practice field for their second spring workout on Saturday.
Feels good to be back at it ??#DukeGang | #GoDuke pic.twitter.com/cj401fmpvL — Duke Football (@DukeFOOTBALL) February 26, 2021
Just getting started ??#DukeGang | #GoDuke pic.twitter.com/qoocIKXcdk — Duke Football (@DukeFOOTBALL) February 26, 2021
On offense, Duke welcomes back five starters including wide receivers Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun. In 2020, the duo led the Blue Devils with 358 and 349 receiving yards on 32 and 39 catches, respectively. The offense line will also have starters back in Casey Holman, Graham Barton and Jacob Monk. This unit helped block for an offense that averaged 379.7 yards of total offense per game last season and created paths for running backs Mataeo Durant and Deon Jackson to record four and two games with over 100+ rushing yards.
Despite not being a returning starter, Durant is back for his senior season after a banner junior campaign. The McCormick, S.C., native finished 2020 ranked seventh in the ACC in rushing yards (817), ninth in rushing yards per game (71.3) and tied for ninth in rushing touchdowns (8). All marks that led the Blue Devils.
Duke must replace its starting quarterback and will look to redshirt junior Gunnar Holmberg and redshirt freshman Luca Diamont to anchor that room this spring. Holmberg saw action in six games last season, finishing 18-of-25 with two interceptions. The Wake Forest, N.C., native also rushed for nine yards on 23 attempts with one score. Diamont competed in one game in 2020 and went 5-of-8 with one interception. He amassed 60 rushing yards on 12 carries during his rookie season as well.
The Blue Devils will look a little different defensively in 2021 as they have to replace five starters from a year ago, including All-ACC honorees in Chris Rumph II (second team), Michael Carter II (third team) and Victor Dimukeje (honorable mention). Rumph II and Dimukeje were a force on the pass rush as the duo compiled 8.0 and 7.5 sacks and 12.5 and 11.5 tackles for loss, respectively, in 2020. Carter II garnered 41 tackles during his senior year and finished tied for ninth in the ACC in passes defended with 10.
The lone starting defensive lineman returning is Ben Frye, who spent much of the offseason competing for the Blue Devil wrestling program.
The linebacker room welcomes back everyone from 2020, including starters Shaka Heyward and Rocky Shelton II. Duke was led in tackles by Heyward with 80, while Shelton II chipped in with 35.
Finally, the Blue Devils return three of their five starters in the secondary, led by veteran cornerback Leonard Johnson. Joining Johnson in the starting rotation in 2020 was fellow cornerback Jeremiah Lewis and safeties Lummie Young IV and Nate Thompson, who split time as one of Duke’s starters. Lewis finished fourth on the team with 46 tackles and was followed closely behind by Thompson with 43. Lewis led the Blue Devils in pass breakups with 10, while also sitting tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.