Photo: Ben Humphreys (L) and Joe Giles-Harris
If it seemed like Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys were joined at the hip throughout last week’s win at Georgia Tech, look no further the defensive statistics. Together, Duke’s inside linebackers combined for 26 tackles.
Giles-Harris, a 6-foot-2, 240-pounder, led the Blue Devils with five solo tackles and 15 assisted for a 15 total.
Humphreys, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, was second with five solos and six assisted for 11 that included two tackles for a loss for four yards. Georgia Tech rushed for only 229 yards, well below their average of 373.0.
Only Clemson (146) and Duke have held the Yellow Jackets under 300. Georgia Tech’s season high was 542 only a week earlier in beating Louisville 66-31.
“Which suggests both of them are making huge plays,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “If you watch the Georgia Tech film and their 26 tackles between them, thank goodness they were on the field.”
Giles-Harris and Humphreys are now midway through their third year starting side-by-side in a 4-2-5 scheme. They're 1-2 in tackles for the 28 season, with Giles-Harris leading with 50 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a half-sack. Humphreys is second with 47 with 5.5 tackles for a loss and one sack.
They’ll be a tandem in a crucial game to keep pace with ACC Coastal Division leader Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-0 ACC Coastal). Duke (5-1, 1-1 ACC Coastal) plays host to Virginia (4-2, 2-1 AAC Coastal) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.
They’ve been comfortable together through four years now, although Giles-Harris is a redshirt junior and Humphreys a true senior. They arrived together in the Class of 2015 paired as roommates. Cutcliffe’s decision to play Humphreys as a true freshman and redshirt Giles-Harris was about the only time they’ve been separated.
Humphreys was the 4-star recruit from Newport Beach, Calif., that played down the road at Santa Ana Mater Dei, a national high school power.
Giles-Harris was a 3-star from Nayack, N.Y., that played at St. Joseph Regional across the river in New Jersey.
“There were a couple of reasons," Cutcliffe said. "We had a particular need at the linebacker (Humphreys) played. The other is that he came from an exceptional, very advanced program. We felt he was ready to step in and play and he did.”
They’ve remained roommates throughout their Duke stay, so the about the only separation was when Humphreys left with the team for road trips. But looking back at how they talked football throughout the year, Giles-Harris said that bond helped form a 1-2 punch for the future.
“Ben is a very smart player and he would come and ask me questions,” Giles-Harris said. “He saw things and I saw things. I think it was more, ‘Hey, make sure you’re paying attention,’ but I think that was the biggest thing that helped me. I felt I was more involved with the team, especially when the team was traveling for a Saturday game and he’d text me on a Friday night and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ ”
With time, Giles-Harris realized he needed another year to mature.
“It was disappointing,” he said of the redshirt season. “You come in everybody at home is saying, ‘You going to play? You going to play?’ I’m going, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get a spot.’ It hurts for a couple of weeks, but then you begin to understand the process.
“I look back on it and I was not ready to play. I was too light and didn’t know what I was doing out there. I had to adjust to the speed. Even though I was on the scout team, I was going against the numbers ones every day. It helped prepare me for Saturdays. I learned a lot.”
Humphreys followed up his impact as a true freshman with third-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore. In 2017, he missed the final two regular-season games and the bowl victory with an injury. He was announced Thursday as a quarter-finalist on the Lott Award watch list in 2018.
Giles-Harris earned honorable mention in 2016 and first-team in 2017. He also picked up second-team All-American from the Walter Camp Foundation and third-team from CBS Sports and Phi Steele Magazine.
Giles Harris also drew attention as a possible 2018 NFL draft pick, but he decline to declare early for the draft, saying he never considered the jump.
“They’ve been playing together a lot, and it’s interesting,” First it was Ben, Ben, Ben. Then it was Joe, Joe, Joe. And now it’s Ben and Joe and Joe and Ben. Let’s keep that together. I like that better.”
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