"It's definitely tough losing a guy like Matt," said Ross Cockrell. "But that's the thing about football…it's a team game. We're certainly going to miss him, but we're looking forward to having guys make plays and to step up."
Cockrell, who started 11 games in 2011, is one of the players the Duke coaching staff expects to step in for the departed Daniels as Duke looks for the next wave of playmakers in 2012. And it's not just what he will do between the lines that matters.
"Our team lost seven straight games a year ago and nobody feels good about that. We need to have everyone step up and make things happen. As a defensive unit we need to force turnovers and make sure we stick every tackle. Last year we didn't always do that. Everyone needs to be accountable."
Gaining some consistency has been a big shot in the arm for Duke in that regard. For the first time in several seasons the Blue Devils have not undergone a change in defensive coordinators or schemes. It's something Cockrell believes will pay off immediately.
"Coach Knowles being back with his scheme makes it easier for guys. Last year you had everyone thinking through the system because it was new. This year guys are settled in at their positions and know what is expected. You can see the differences already."
That positive momentum will hopefully continue through Spring Practice and into the summer before the Blue Devils come back to camp in August.
"Ever since the season ended guys have been putting in a lot of work. More than in the past. I know I watched tape of every snap I played and identified my weaknesses. There were a couple of post routes I got beat on that I should have made a play on. Instead I got beat so I've watched tape and done individual drills to prepare myself for Spring ball and beyond."
"This summer we're going to have everyone in school and we're going to go to work. We're going to train, we're going to run, and we're going to scrimmage each other. When we come back in the Fall we're going to be motivated and hungry to take the next step."