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Duquesne LB Kuntz works back from offseason injury

Photo courtesy of Duquesne Athletics
Duquesne linebacker Christian Kuntz was named to the College Performance Awards watchlist after making 74 tackles as a sophomore.

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Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

Spring practice allows college football players a chance to get back on the field en route to a successful fall season.

But for Duquesne's Christian Kuntz, this season's spring set him back.

The outside linebacker — an all-Northeast Conference first-team selection in 2013 — tore his ACL during the practice in March but has been focused on getting back into playing shape to continue the success of his sophomore season.

“I have been rehabbing every day and doing everything they tell me to,” the Chartiers Valley grad said. “I started working out right after surgery. I started doing cardio to stay in shape.

“I plan on coming back stronger and faster.”

Kuntz is no stranger to coming back from an injury. As a senior at Chartiers Valley, he ruptured his spleen during the opening practices of the football season. While he was unable to play football that year, he recovered in time to help lead the basketball team to a section title.

Kuntz said the plan is for him to return to the field at some point this season. He has received preseason honors despite the injury.

Kuntz was one of 38 linebackers named to the College Performance Awards watch list headed into the season. The postseason honor is awarded to players who increase the overall effectiveness of their teams.

“It is a nice thing to know, but you can't pay attention to it,” Kuntz said. “You have to just go out there and play. I just need to get out there, listen to the coaches and do my thing.”

Last season he finished with 74 tackles — 19 12 for a loss — with nine sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception.

That was an improvement from 38 tackles as a freshman. Kuntz credited the team's 3-4 defense for his success.

“They cut me free a lot and allow me to make plays on the blitz,” Kuntz said. “That is when I am at my best.”

The improvement on defense wasn't just Kuntz. The team improved its points-against average from 24.09 points per game to 22.72.

The Dukes finished with the No. 16 defense at the FCS level — up from 61st in 2012.

It is that improvement that makes Duquesne's outlook bright. In addition to Kuntz, the defense returns linebacker Aaron Reed (74 tackles), safety Rich Piekarski (70), linebacker Sam Martello (65) and defensive back Chris Johnson (49) — five of last season's top six tacklers.

“We have a lot of talent,” Kuntz said. “We had a great recruiting class with transfers and (junior college) guys coming in. We're going to pick up from last season.”

The Dukes enter the season with a new focus. The team won a share of the Northeast Conference crown last season, finishing tied for first with Sacred Heart at 4-2.

It was the first conference title for Duquesne since 2011 and the second since 2007.

But as satisfying as that was, the Dukes want to make sure they are not sharing the spotlight this season.

“It was great to win the conference title,” Kuntz said. “It is a big accomplishment. But that “co-” part of it wasn't too comforting.

We want to win it outright this season.”

Duquesne start the season Aug. 30 with a trip to Buffalo. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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