Darian “Duce” Chestnut finished the route like a receiver.

Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke made a significant overthrow of his target just outside the red zone as the Bobcats attempted to score their first touchdown of the game deep into the fourth quarter. Chestnut took advantage, snagging the ball out of the air with one hand for his first career interception.

“It was just a dream come true, you know?” Chestnut said postgame, per CuseNation’s Stephen Bailey. “I worked all summer for this. I worked all my life for this.”

Chestnut ranked as Syracuse’s top recruit in the 2021 class per the 247Sports Composite, slotting at No. 421 overall. He played like it in his first college game, finishing with eight tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and his game-ending interception in a 29-9 Orange victory.

That effort earned Chestnut the title of 247Sports True Freshman of the Week for Week 1.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better opening-day performance, especially with how many tackles he had,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “He really did make big tackles in crucial situations all by himself.”

#OrangeNation, meet Duce Chestnut ?? pic.twitter.com/fH1f7qiXop

Chestnut was all over the field for the Orange. He was also a blanket in coverage, surrendering just 13 total yards on eight targets, according to PFF College. Chestnut was easily Syracuse’s best defender, finishing with an 89.7 PFF College grade in 64 snaps, the most on the team.

In fact, Chestnut’s 89.7 PFF College grade ranked first among all true freshmen defenders nationally.

“Duce is just showing the world and the country what I already knew about him,” third-year corner Garrett Williams said. “I’ve been saying Duce is just a natural playmaker. He knows how to get to the ball as you saw today and he’s just a very solid football player. I think me and him are going to have a lot of fun this year.”

A Camden, New Jersey native, Chestnut ranked as the No. 31 overall cornerback in the 2022 class. He picked Syracuse over offers from Michigan State, Ole Miss and others.

Chestnut dedicated his Week 1 effort to his friend from back home, ‘Foopie,’ who passed away earlier this week. Said Chestnut of his interception: “That was so big for me and the family back home. I had to get one.”

Here’s 247Sports’ evaluation of Chestnut exiting high school via national analyst Brian Dohn:

“Has frame to play corner or safety. Boundary corner is ideal spot. Instinctual and smart on field. Athletic and changes direction well. Tracks ball and is aggressive in coverage. Good in run support. Has body control. Strong tackler with technique. Plays physical and re-routes receivers with strong jam. Comfortable in press and off-man coverage. Top end speed a question to excel against elite competition. Has to work on bending more at knees in backpedal. Transition from backpedal to driving on ball needs work. Personal-best 6.74 in 55 meters. Must continue to develop hip looseness. Multi-year starter at Power 5 school.”

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