It's a little tough to find a current HOT 11 on the Duke football roster right now, but with a little work we have come up with this week's version leading up to Saturday's game at Alabama.
Thaddeus Lewis-The freshman quarterback has come crashing back to earth in the last two weeks. First, he was treated rather rudely in Blacksburg and knocked out of the game and then he had a day to forget in Duke's 37-0 loss to Virginia. However, he's still a cinch pick for the HOT 11. Duke's offensive hopes ride on his arm. He's shown the talent is there, but the Blue Devils desperately need more consistency and playmaking from him to have a chance at a win or two the rest of the season.
Mike Tauiliili-If there is one thing that is certain about Duke's middle linebacker, it's that he is a tenacious competitor. Our hunch is that coming off a sub-par four tackle performance against Virginia, we'll see the usual Tauiliili against Alabama. Even with the mediocre performance last week, Tauiliili is still on pace to record nearly 100 tackles for the season. Book him for at least eight Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Eron Riley-Riley and his receiving cohorts will face arguably their biggest challenge of the year against Alabama's secondary. With so much talk surrounding Duke's inability to score, it would certainly be nice if Riley could make one of his trademark downfield grabs to give Duke an early opportunity to dent the scoreboard. Riley has been somewhat of a factor in every game this season, but he's yet to have one great game. It's not likely to come this weekend, but he will definitely have some chances.
Patrick Bailey-Last week, we put Bailey on this list because we expected to see him rush the passer more. It turns out we were right, as Bailey recorded a sack on Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell on the Cavaliers' first play from scrimmage. For the game, Bailey had eight stops to record his second highest tackle total of the year. Alabama has been effective through the air in the early portion of the season, and Bailey will need to be a factor again on the pass rush to help keep Crimson Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson from finding a groove.
Eli Nichols-Duke's seasoned warrior has seen his numbers drop some this year, but that's not really a fault of his own. Playing a new position, he has often not been on the field in passing situations where in the past he could wreak havoc from defensive end. Nichols is still capable of a great game though and he will have a couple of them before the end of the year. He'll be a key factor in making sure Alabama can't jumpstart its running game this week as well as a threat to get to Parker Wilson.
Raphael Chestnut-The sophomore speedster continues to put up impressive numbers on a weekly basis. His four catches against Virginia was the third time this year he has had at least four catches. His production against the Cavaliers helped compensate for not having Jomar Wright at 100 percent. Like mentioned above with Eron Riley though, Chestnut will face his stiffest challenge yet against Alabama's defensive backfield. Can he get off the line and maintain enough focus to make catches amidst tight coverage? If he can, we'll know without a doubt that he can be a constant playmaker for Duke's offense throughout his career.
John Talley-We've had Talley on this list every week of the season, and while he has only logged one interception so far, he has been a very impressive tackler. He's racked up nearly five tackles per game and has 3.5 tackles for loss on the year. He hasn't been perfect all year, but he continues to be an effective player despite the poor overall numbers of Duke's secondary.
Ronnie Drummer-My oh my does Duke need this guy back at 100 percent. After testing his injured ankle against Virginia last week, it certainly appears this week that Drummer will be the healthiest he has been since the opening kickoff of the Richmond game. For Duke to put up some points on the road at Alabama, the Blue Devils are going to have break a couple of big plays. Drummer is the man for the job if he can get 12 to 15 touches during the contest.
Adrian Aye-Darko-A big part of Duke's pass rush against Virginia came from its safeties. Aye-Darko had 1.5 sacks and seven total tackles, but his counterpart Glenn Williams also deserves a mention for recording one sack and eight tackles. Aye-Darko's numbers have been fairly consistent on the year, and he and Williams will need to be on their toes again this week. We've already talked about the necessity of defending Alabama's passing game, but the safeties have to be on the alert in the event that either Jimmy Johns or Ken Darby can break contain at the line of scrimmage.
Casey Camero-Camero got in the sack act against Virginia when he dumped Sewell for a nine yard loss. That was his first sack of the season and Duke hopes it will be a sign of things to come from the senior. His highest tackle total for the year is four against Richmond, but he has been a help in defending the pass by recording a pair of pass deflections at the line of scrimmage. Camero, along with Eli Nichols, was praised by Ted Roof this week for his leadership skills in tough times. Those skills will probably be needed again Saturday.
Marcus Jones-Jones made us look good for adding him back the HOT 11 last week. All he did in his first action at wide receiver of 2006 was make four catches for 42 yards while showing a lot of toughness after the catch. Jones is a true team first player, and by looking at him and listening to him you would never know he had lost the starting quarterback job. He's committed himself to being a consistent receiving threat, and Duke's offense is better off for it as long as Lewis stays healthy under center.
Moved in: Drummer, Aye-Darko, Camero