College Sports

Former Duke safety Jeremy Cash ready to hear his name in NFL Draft

Duke safety Jeremy Cash trips up Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas on Sept. 26. Cash is expected to be taken anywhere from the second to seventh round of the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday.
Duke safety Jeremy Cash trips up Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas on Sept. 26. Cash is expected to be taken anywhere from the second to seventh round of the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. cliddy@newsobserver.com

When Jeremy Cash chose to leave Ohio State for Duke, the move flew in the face of conventional football wisdom.

But he will end up with his shot at the NFL just the same.

“If you can play, they will find you,” Cash said Thursday. “Obviously they found me.”

Cash, a former Duke safety, has a chance to hear his name called Friday night, during the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft. If not then, expect him to be selected on Saturday, during rounds four through seven. CBS projects Cash to be a third-round pick. NFL.com projects him to come off the board in the fourth or fifth round. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has him ranked No. 140 on his big board, and ESPN senior writer Todd McShay has him at No. 110. Cash wasn’t in ESPN’s latest three-round mock draft.

Cash projects as a run-stopping safety who will excel in the box up near the line of scrimmage but struggle in pass coverage against NFL-level wideouts. ESPN ranks his run support abilities as “excellent” and his instincts/recognition as “above average.” NFL.com adds that Cash, “plays with big closing burst when he smells blood.”

Cash, who is back in Durham after a trip to Chicago, the site of the draft, said he doesn’t have any big plans for Friday or Saturday. He’ll be with his mom, dad, fiance and agent, just waiting for a call. Cash doesn’t anticipate being too nervous as he waits, the work is already done at this point, he pointed out.

“I’ve done all I can do, now I just have to play the hand I’m dealt,” Cash said.

The 2015 ACC Defensive Player of the Year missed Duke’s Pinstripe Bowl 44-41 overtime win over Indiana last season while recovering from a Dec. 16 surgery on his right wrist. He prepared for the February NFL Combine in California at Proactive Sports, about an hour west of Los Angeles, with players like Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman. A hamstring injury slowed him at the NFL combine and at Duke’s pro day, but he was able to run for teams at a private workout at Duke on April 13.

The time before the combine went “dragging along like no other,” Cash said, but since that late February mark, the days have passed much quicker. And now a future he has spent years dreaming about is nearly here.

When Cash transferred after his freshman season from Ohio State to Duke in 2012, he was focused on picking a school that best set him up for a life beyond football, citing Duke’s academics multiple times over the years as a primary reason for his decision. The football part workout out just fine, too, as he became a consensus all-American and recorded more than 100 tackles in each of his three players years at Duke.

“Obviously we’re not the top tier school in terms of football,” Cash said of Duke, “But being able to go out there and compete at a high level and get drafted, that will be a great feeling in itself.”

Fellow Blue Devils Matt Skura (center), Ross Martin (kicker) Will Monday (punter), Braxton Deaver (tight end) and Shaquille Powell (running back) are all long shots to be drafted, but they will have an opportunity to impress teams in rookie camps on free agent contracts. The former teammates all stay in touch via a group text message, and as Cash pointed out, just maybe some of them will be on the same team again.

Laura Keeley: 919-829-4556, @laurakeeley

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