A Spark For the Defensive Unit:
The timing couldn't have been any worse for the Blue Devils when junior middle linebacker Mike Tauiliili was involved in an off-campus incident that netted an indefinite suspension. Later, head coach Ted Roof announced that after investigating the matter Tauiliili's ban would be in effect only for the game against Connecticut. Now, the 5-foot-10, 235 pounder who earned several Freshman All-American honors two seasons ago will look to solidify a defensive back seven that was routinely exploited in the opener.
"He’s been our leading tackler both as a freshman and as a sophomore," said Roof of his returning player. "From a production standpoint and an experience standpoint, you’re adding that to the mix. I’m ready to see how he’s going to play."
Complicating the return was the stellar play of sophomore Vincent Rey who logged 17 total tackles and 1.5 sacks as a fill-in middle linebacker. Rather than relegate Rey, and his production to the bench, Roof has decided to move him to the outside linebacker (in favor of senior Tim Ball), meaning Duke will have two of its most productive defensive players on the field at the same time.
"[Rey] was solid and steady and he made the plays that he was in the position to make," said Roof. "He’s got a motor and he plays with a lot of enthusiasm and I think that we’ll have a couple guys that are good box guys in there playing against Virginia. I look for more production out of that position.”
For Rey, the move outside is one that won't cause too much of a distraction.
"I played outside linebacker in the spring so that’s what I was learning most of the time. For the next couple of days I have to refresh my memory to make the transition from middle back to outside," said Rey. "I deal more with receivers--- in some instances I have to take a receiver vertical. Maybe I have the flats at some points. I have to be more receiver-minded. The coaches here teach all of us to give it your all every play and just attack. If you don’t know something just go hit somebody in the mouth. In high school that’s how we played. We just ran around and hit people. Here you have to know a lot of things, such as coverages and gaps, but when it comes down to it, you just have to want to hit somebody in the mouth.””
One of the major holes in the Blue Devils' opening performance was the inability to move the ball down the field on offense. Much of that came from a less than inspiring performance from the offensive line, which often left quarterback Thaddeus Lewis attempting to improvise under pressure, or the running backs running into a wall of white uniforms. On Saturday, the line will get a big shot in the arm as 6-foot-8, 310lbs tackle Fred Roland returns.
Roland will line up at the right takle position in place of 6-foot-2, 240 pound freshman Bryan Morgan who spent Saturday learning in a trial by fire circumstance. And though Morgan certainly availed himself in a positive light, the extra six inches of height, 70 pounds of weight, and hundreds of snaps of experience brought in by Roland will be a welcomed addition to the starting lineup.
"Fred’s a great player and he plays with a lot of ferocity," said fellow starting lineman Zach Maurides. "He’s clearly a very powerful person. [He's] a guy that for Rob Sherman and Matt Rumsey, they know what he’s going to do on every play and I think it’s going to help us get our harmony as a group. I think that’s a benefit. We’re used to working with Fred, we rely on him and we know what he’s going to do on every play."
Roland is returning from pre-season back surgery.