"Getting back on the field after last season and all the offseason work we've been doing feels pretty good," said Jamal Bruce. "We are all excited about what we can do this year."
This Fall will be Bruce's third year in the program, and perhaps his first as a starter at defensive tackle. That level of expectation brings with some challenges and some opportunity.
"It's definitely a challenge knowing that more is going to be expected of you, but at the same time you have to keep doing what has worked and continue to get better. For me that means being more consistent and still competing like I have something to prove on every snap."
Listed at just 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, Bruce says he's constantly looking for ways to change his size disadvantage inside into an advantage.
"Being a smaller guy on the line means I have to use other methods to do my job. I need to always work to have quicker hands and being smaller means I've got a lower pad level and if I can continue to use my quickness it creates problems for bigger guys on the other side."
Bruce won't be alone in relying on quickness this year either. He says teammate Dezmond Johnson is a player Blue Devil fans should be on the lookout for in order to make an impact in 2012.
"He's looking really good early on. He's a great pass rusher- really fast and really athletic. He's going to help us out a lot this year."
Another help to the Duke defense will be the consistency brought to this year's Spring workouts thanks to the return of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
"You can definitely tell guys are comfortable this year. Having the system already installed and everyone knowing their assignments is big for us. We're doing a lot of things at full speed a lot earlier this season. You can see there's a lot of comfort out there."
Bruce and the rest of the team will head off to Spring Break this week before returning to campus next weekend and resuming practices. The workouts bookending the time away from campus is something that the team appears to relish.
"It's good because it keeps guys motivated. We got out here and were hitting each other early and now we get a little bit of a break, but in the back of everyone's mind you know what you have to do when we come back. We need to be recharged and ready to finish the practices out strong."