The Duke Blue Devils return a bevy of defensive stars as part of their top 10 returners for the 2022 college football season. While their quarterback situation remains a mystery, the Blue Devils can rely on several veteran defenders in 2022 to keep their offense in a positive situation. DeWayne Carter is the headliner on a defensive unit that is stacked up front.
Top 10 returning players at Duke
We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players to Duke.
10) Eli Pancol, WR
Back to take up the mantle left with Jake Bobo’s departure is Eli Pancol. A massive receiver at 6’3″, 200 pounds, Pancol has a terrific catch radius and perhaps even better hands. Throw away that Virginia game where he made marquee drops because Pancol was sure with his receptions in every other outing. With his size and deceptive speed along his routes, Pancol could develop into a true No. 1 receiver on the outside with some plus play at quarterback.
9) Graham Barton, OT
For how important left tackles are in today’s football, returning Graham Barton for his second season at the position and third overall is key for Duke’s QB situation. Barton had a solid 2020 season at center but really made waves as the team’s left tackle in 2021. He excelled in both facets, but Barton’s movement for his size is what stands out. Anchoring and keeping his balance will go a long way in making that next step up.
8) Maurice McIntyre, G
It’s a stacked offensive line returning to Duke this season, and Maurice McIntyre is back for his fifth season with the program. After starting most of the past two seasons and some of that 2019 year, McIntyre can rely on the growth he’s shown since stepping foot on campus for the 2022 season. He’s a terrific pass protector and offers perhaps even better movement skills in the run game.
7) Jaylen Stinson, DB
Handling his duties from inside the box, Jaylen Stinson plays far above his size. Though he may give up a couple of inches and certainly a few pounds, Stinson possesses great ball skills and terrific coverage ability. Stinson recorded three pass breakups a season ago as well as a handful of forced incompletions due to his tight coverage. He exceeded expectations given the fact he was tasked with covering such a variety of pass catchers in 2021.
6) Dorian Mausi, LB
With the coverage ability of a safety, Dorian Mausi had a terrific year patrolling the middle of the field for Duke. He limited ball carriers at the second level very well and showcased an ability to sniff out points of attack on the regular.
Mausi was consistent down the stretch in coverage, limiting big plays and making a few plays of the ball on his own. With another season next to Shaka Heyward, this experienced and talented linebacking corps should strike fear into opposing offenses.
5) Jacob Monk, G
Back to handle the duties on the left side for a fourth season, Jacob Monk returns to Duke as one of the most experienced linemen in the conference. Monk started his freshman season at right tackle before transitioning inside. And my what a transition that was! Monk’s dominated on the inside over the past two seasons, keeping clean sheets in pass protection and pancaking defenders in the run game all the same.
4) Jalon Calhoun, WR
Body control and soft hands don’t often come in such a tight-knit package as they do with Jalon Calhoun. Calhoun dominates from the inside for the Blue Devils, hauling in 56 receptions for 718 yards with a team-high three touchdowns. He showcased, on multiple occasions, an ability to make contested catches look easy and pluck passes out of the air that were either over or underthrown. Calhoun is a stud on the inside.
3) R.J. Oben, EDGE
R.J. Oben forced his way into the pocket for a team-high five sacks last season. In what was certainly a breakout year, Oben also recorded seven tackles for loss and led the team in QB pressures. With a knack for finding the football, Oben also forced three fumbles and was a constant force around ball carriers.
2) Shaka Heyward, LB
The wiley veteran of the Duke defensive front, Shaka Heyward is back for his fifth year with the Blue Devils. Heyward is a versatile weakside linebacker who is at his best when rushing the passer. Yet, he’s no stranger to making plays everywhere else on the field.
Heyward has a high motor in both defensive facets and possesses plenty of strength to take on any moving linemen in his way against the run. In coverage, Heyward’s strengths are against those mismatched, undersized pass catchers he’ll face in the flats as he makes highlight-reel plays look routine.
1) DeWayne Carter, DT
You might not have heard about it, but DeWayne Carter was dominant for Duke last season. He ripped his way through for 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and dozens of quarterback pressures.
At 6’3″, 298 pounds, Carter understands leverage, utilizing it perfectly on a regular basis. He’ll upend his blocker en route to pressuring the QB or pursuing the ball carrier. Carter is quick, instinctual, strong, and possesses the leadership qualities to carry this veteran Duke defensive front in 2022.
Honorable mention players returning to Duke in 2022
- Darrell Harding Jr., WR
- John Gelotte, OT
- Da’Quan Johnson, S
- Ja’Mion Franklin, DT
- Michael Reese, EDGE
- Riley Leonard/Jordan Moore, QBs