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Virginia Tech Football: Previewing The Duke Defense

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Getting to know the Duke Blue Devils defense currently ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense.

Ellen Ozier-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Coordinator: Jim Knowles

Defensive Scheme: 4-2-5

Scoring Defense: 18.2 PPG (11th nationally)

Passing Defense: 197 YPG (24th nationally)

Rushing Defense: 203.4 YPG (104th nationally)

Linemen/Linebackers:

If there was ever an opportunity for Virginia Tech to put together a much needed solid effort on the ground it could be this Saturday. The Hokies take on a Duke run defense that ranks 104th nationally in rushing yards allowed in 2014.

Senior linebacker David Helton sets the tone for the Blue Devils up front, leading the team in tackles with 94 while chipping in two sacks. Helton has an instinct for finding the ball plus good vision as a play is progressing, as illustrated by his 10.8 tackles per game.

Fellow linebackers C.J. France and Zavier Carmichael have also been valuable assets to the Duke defense in 2014. The senior France is second in tackles for linebackers with 33, and the freshman Carmichael is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two. The team sack leader is senior defensive lineman Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo with three, while also contributing 32 tackles.

Defensive Backs:

The Duke defensive scheme dictates a heavy need for strong play from the secondary. The Blue Devils have not been disappointed in 2014, as four of their defensive backs have at least 47 tackles.

Junior strong safety Jeremy Cash leads the secondary in tackles with 82, and sophomores Devon Edwards and Byron  Fields have 79 and 49 tackles respectively. Fellow sophomore Deondre Singleton rounds out the Duke secondary with 47 tackles this season. Cash also has added a pair of interceptions and sacks as the team's most valuable defensive back. The 6'2", 205 Cash is a hard hitting, big play safety who can easily shutdown the oppositions most imposing threat.

Last week against Boston College Michael Brewer had success finding targets when chased out of the pocket by Eagles defenders.

Duke, on the other hand, has the personnel in the secondary to stop plays before they become a big gainer. The Blue Devils also have the ability to stall drives in the redzone, which could cause issues for Brewer and his favorite short yardage target, tight end Bucky Hodges.

Special Teams:

Duke boasts one of the nation's most consistent kicking games, lead by a pair of juniors on kicking and punting duties.

Ross Martin is perfect on field goal (13/13) and extra point (38/38) attempts in 2014, while punter Will Monday owns a 44.61 average on 44 punts this year. Defensive back DeVon Edwards has returned 14 of the teams 20 kick offs, averaging 29.07 yards per return and one touchdown. Receiver Jamison Crowder handles punt returning for the Blue Devils, and has turned 18 returns in 2014 into 176 yards and one touchdown.

Outlook:

The Hokies desperately need a big game on the ground from Marshawn Williams and company after several subpar weeks. They have an opportunity this week against Duke. Avoiding star linebacker David Helton will be a key to success for the Virginia Tech running game, as Helton seems to be improving each week in 2014. Brewer is coming off a 345 yard performance against Boston College, but likely won't be able to move the ball as easily against a more capable Duke secondary.