Devil of a Preview: Offensive Line

Duke enters the 2004 season with hope not seen since the 1994, the last time they played in a bowl. Last year's interim head coach, Ted Roof, had his interim title removed and now has the monumental task of making Duke a winner in the new look ACC. Today we take the next step and preview the big guys on the offensive line.

Duke will have to replace 2004 NFL draft pick Drew Strojny. Luckily, the have the perfect man for the job. Junior Jim Moravchik played multiple line positions last season, and is ready to step in and take over for Strojny. Some though Moravchik should have started at guard last year, but he ended up as the super sub, filling in at guard and tackle where needed. He could end up being Duke's best offensive lineman since Lennie Friedman. He will be backed up by freshman Garret Mason. Mason is a bit light at 285, but has a rock solid body and is athletic enough to compensate for the lack of bulk.

At right tackle, Christian Mitchell lines up as the lone returning starter from 2003. Mitchell has great size, and has two years of starting experience under his belt. He will be looked on for leadership on this inexperienced unit. Chris Best has been moved to guard for 2004, but can back up Mitchell at tackle if needed.

The aforementioned Best will line up at right guard. He has played 3 positions during his Duke tenure, starting out at tight end and then moving to defensive line before ending up on the offensive side. He played sparingly at guard and tackle in 2003, so he will be relatively wet behind the ears at the start of this season. Sophomore Tyler Kreig will be starting somewhere, but whether he lines up at guard or center remains to be seen. Kreig is another former tight end that has adjusted nicely to the offensive line. Expect big things from him starting in 2004.

Also competing for starting assignments are sophomore guard Lavdrum Bauta at guard and senior center Dan Mooney. Regardless of who is starting, both players will play prominent roles on this years' line. One to watch is sophomore center Paul Campitelli. He has taken a similar path as Best, starting as a TE then moving to DL before ending up at center. Campitelli was an outstanding blocking tight end, and seems to be taking to his new position. He will probably need to gain weight before seeing full-time duty, but he is in the mix for spot duty.

One player to watch is converted defensive tackle Bob Benion. He was an outstanding high school player who saw regular action on defense as a true freshman. He took a medical redshirt last year, and now has been moved to the offensive line. Benion is a highly intelligent player who understands leverage and technique in the trenches, and will be able to learn the new offense quickly. He could end up seeing immediate playing time.

Good News:
The Devils have a decent starting line. There are no questions at tackle as both Moravchik and Mitchell are solid. The line as a whole will be much more athletic and mobile than the 2003 version. This should allow Duke to be more creative with blocking schemes.

Bad News:
There are some serious depth issues here. The Devils have only have 4 players along the line that have seen anything resembling significant playing time, Mitchell, Moravchik, Krieg, and Mooney. The rest of the unit will have some growing up to do. Depth is a serious question as well. As of right now, there are three players on the two-deep who were defensive linemen a season ago. Duke cannot afford injuries here, otherwise, the staff might have to take the redshirts off of a few of the six incoming freshman.

Bottom Line:
Can Duke stay healthy along the line? That will determine how the unit will perform. The starters will be fine, but depth is almost non-existent. The staff should make a concerted effort to get some of the second-string guys playing time early in the year. That experience could prove invaluable later in the season. One of the converted defensive linemen needs to become a solid contributor.

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