In today’s NFL, every team is looking for versatile, athletic edge defenders who can handle many different responsibilities and make big plays no matter where they line up.
If your favorite team is looking for that player in the 2021 NFL Draft class, Duke’s Chris Rumph II should be on their radar.
A promising, explosive defender with a sky-high ceiling, Rumph recently spoke exclusively with Draft Wire about how he’s working to improve this offseason, which NFL star he likes to learn from on film, and what fans can expect from him this season.
JM: How have you managed to stay in shape and keep up with your weight training throughout the pandemic?
CRII: When we were at home, the coaching staff did a terrific job helping us adapt to the new normal. We made the best of the resources we had available to us. It definitely helped me stay in shape. When we arrived back on campus, it allowed us to really hit the ground running. Everybody here at Duke did a great job making sure the whole team had an opportunity to stay in shape.
JM: You took a big step forward last season. Did you expect to improve in the manner that you did?
CRII: I sure hoped for it (laughs). I didn’t do much during my red-shirt freshmen year. It didn’t take much for me to improve. The coaching staff was more comfortable with me being on the field. I certainly won over their trust last season. They gave me the opportunities. I took advantage of the amount of snaps they allowed me to play. They put me in great positions to make plays. I give them all the credit for the plan they developed for me. They put me in a position to utilize my skill-set to the best of my ability.
JM: Expectations are going to be higher for you now. People know about Chris Rumph II now. What have you done to ensure that you meet those expectations in 2020?
CRII: I don’t pay attention to the hype. I just come to work every day with the mindset that I have to get better. I can’t stay complacent, especially at this level in the ACC. Complacency will get you beat. I just make sure that I keep my nose to the ground. I don’t pay attention to the individual accolades. I block out the noise.
I appreciate the support, but at the end of the day, what I care most about is helping my team win games. We’re trying to reach the championship. We’re making sure that everybody is on the same page. We have a lot of fun out there.
The expectations for this season, that stuff doesn’t phase me. I’m excited to get back on the field. I have a terrific opportunity in front of me to continue playing football alongside my teammates.
JM: How can this defense be better this year than it was last year?
CRII: We didn’t do a good enough job getting off the field on third down last season. We allowed way too many big plays. I think the most important thing for us to get better is that we need to stay locked in mentally. Nobody has to be a superhero, myself included. We just need to do our jobs. If everybody handles their business, we’ll be fine. We need to tackle better. We need to communicate better.
The group of guys we have in the room, the 2017 class that I came in with had a bunch of guys on the defensive side of the ball. We’ve all played a lot of football. We’re very experienced and comfortable with one another. The communication is gonna be there, the comfort level is gonna be there. This 2017 class has had a lot of fun playing with one another. All of this will boost the defensive production.
JM: Who are some players that you enjoy watching on film? Do you model your game after anybody in particular?
CRII: I love watching Von Miller. I love the way he plays the game. I love the speed and athleticism that he’s able to put on display. I try to carry a lot of those traits with me. I try to model my game after somebody like him.
At the same time, Von Miller is Von Miller. I’m Chris Rumph. Whatever my specialties are, I’m going to take advantage of them. I’m trying to make a name for myself.
JM: What do you enjoy most about the way this Duke defense has utilized you within their scheme?
CRII: They line me up both inside and outside. I love that. During my red-shirt freshmen year, I played a little linebacker against Wake Forest and Temple. I love the versatility. I appreciate the light they see me in. They put so much trust in me by lining me up at so many different positions. The coaches do a great job utilizing my traits.
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JM: What’s it like playing for coach David Cutcliffe?
CRII: I love Coach Cutcliffe so much. I’ve been around a lot of head coaches due to my dad’s job and Coach Cutcliffe is one of the most genuine, loving and caring men I’ve ever been around and played for. He genuinely cares about you as a person. That’s very important to me because football is just a game at the end of the day.
By the time you leave Duke, you’ve learned a lot more than just how to be a football player. I’ve learned how to become a man here. If you didn’t do that, you wasted your time here. Coach Cutcliffe does a great job making sure he not only coaches us as football players, but as young men as well.
JM: What are three traits that an edge rusher must possess in order to be successful?
CRII: You need to have a great get-off, first and foremost. It all starts with the get-off. You need to have speed. Speed is a must. You also need to be an athletic guy. You have to be able to bend the corner and dip that shoulder. You have to keep the O-linemen’s hands off you and you need to finish plays.
To summarize, speed allows you to close the distance between yourself and the quarterback. Being athletic allows you to make a move to win your one-on-one match-up. You need to finish plays. You can’t waste a great rep by not finishing. Those are the most important traits for a defensive linemen.
JM: What can you tell me about your pass rush arsenal? Do you have a go-to move?
CRII: I don’t have a huge arsenal. My father and I have been working on that. We spent some time together in the lab during quarantine. We added a few more rushes to my toolbox. I’m not ready to reveal them yet (laughs). I used my length and speed to my advantage last season. I have very long arms. I really leaned on that. I have the ability to beat an offensive linemen inside as well. I played to my athleticism last season. I’m looking to add a little more technique this year. It’s all about continuing to improve my game.
JM: Speaking of your dad, Chris Rumph is a terrific coach. What’s the biggest lesson he’s ever taught you?
CRII: He’s always taught me to have a positive attitude no matter what’s going on. A lot of people don’t realize how much weight your words carry. If you speak negativity, negativity will come into your life. That’s why I always remain positive. That’s one lesson he taught me at a young age. I carry that with me today. It was a terrific lesson for me to learn. It’s proven to be true time and time again. I love how it applies to my life.
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JM: Who would you say is the best offensive linemen you’ve gone up against so far?
CRII: That’s a great question. I went up against Jedrick Wills Jr. at Alabama last season.
I’ll tell you what though, an unsung hero that a lot of people are going to be surprised by is Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw. I’m not going to be shocked at all. He needs to be on your radar. He’s a great offensive tackle. I have a lot of respect for him. We were talking throughout the game last season. He has incredibly strong hands.
I look forward to playing against him once again this season. I had to think about that before I said it, with all the changes to the schedule (laughs). He’s definitely one of the best tackles I’ve played against.
JM: Would you say you’re more developed as a pass rusher or run stopper at this point in time?
CRII: Can I be honest with you? Neither (laughs). If we’re being honest, the answer is neither. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on my technique as a pass rusher. I have strides to make as a run defender as well. As I look back on my film from last year, I left a lot of plays on the field. I made a lot of impact plays but I also got pushed out of my gap more often than I would like. I made some correctable mistakes. Eliminating those negative plays would improve my game immensely. I’m going to continue to mature as a player. That’s the honest answer to that question.
JM: What can Duke fans expect from Chris Rumph II this year?
CRII: They can expect me to bring a lot of energy to the field. I’m gonna bring the energy all day long. That’s what they can expect from me.