What We Know And Don't: Offensive Line

As was the case in 2004, the big question surrounding the Blue Devils' offensive abilities in the upcoming season centers on the offensive line. Once again the Blue Devils will need to rely on several talented, but untested players in the trenches as they try and scratch out a potent offensive attack. TDD continues the season preview by examining which "hogs" will step up in '05.

What we know: The middle of the offensive line is set, at least in the starting lineup. Both guards Tyler Kreig and Bob Benion started games last season, and have logged extensive minutes for most of their careers. Kreig started all 11 games last year. He is a converted tight end that possesses great mobility for a 300-pounder. Benion started his Duke career on the defensive line, but moved to offense before last season. He has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but has been a good player for the Devils when on the field.

Sophomore center Matt Rumsey logged quality minutes as a true freshman in 2004. He has a bright future for the Devils and should solidify the center position for 2005 and beyond.

2004 Starting left tackle Jim Moravchik was originally not to return, due to repeated injuries. He had a change of heart and good health in the spring, however, and has now rejoined the team. This is a huge boon to the fortunes of the Blue Devil offense. He has over a season's worth of starts under his belt and has been playing regularly for Duke since 2003. He brings stability and maturity to a position in desperate need of both.

What we don't know: The starting right tackle position is wide open, and there isn't a single player on the roster other than Moravchik that has taken a snap at offensive tackle. Redshirt senior Demetrius Warrick has moved over from the defensive line and will get first crack at the starting job. Warrick has a prototypical build for a tackle and is a good athlete for his size. On the other hand, he has not lined up on offense since high school. Since he spent the spring recovering from an injury, Warrick has a big learning curve ahead of him this fall.

Junior Lav Bauta will also compete for playing time. He is one of the strongest members of the team and has rotated in at guard the past two seasons. Redshirt freshman Fred Roland might also figure into the mix. He has great size and looks the part, but might be a year away strength-wise for full-time duty.

Another big unknown for the 2005 Devils is the depth at just about every position. For the second straight season, Duke will have to replace multiple starters along the line. The backups are talented but young and untested.

Freshmen Rob Schirrman and Cameron Goldberg will compete for the backup position behind Moravchik. Schirrman is slightly undersized but is hardnosed. Goldberg is very small for a college lineman, but has good agility.

Freshman Jon Terry and Sophomore Garrett Mason will be the primary backups at guard. Both players are mauling blockers and are physically ready to handle themselves in the college trenches. The backup center is junior Paul Campitelli. He has moved from tight end, to guard, to defensive line, and not to center in his college career. He is small but is a tenacious blocker and extremely strong for his size. Tyler Kreig can also slide over from his guard spot to handle snapping duties if necessary.

Wildcard: Demetrius Warrick has the size, strength, and experience to excel at right tackle. Unfortunately, he has not played the position since high school. This position seems to be the only unknown heading into the season. Lav Bauta could be a decent option, but does not have the natural physical ability of Warrick. If he can pick up the nuances of playing on the other side of the ball, and can minimize his mistakes, Warrick has a chance to be a big asset for the Devils on the right side.

What will happen: That is a good question. If Duke can stay healthy, the line actually has a chance to be solid, despite losing 3 starters from the 2004 squad. The interior line should be good enough to create holes up the middle for the power running game. The key to the Devils' offensive fortune this season will be how the line performs in pass protection. Duke gave up an unacceptable 34 sacks last year. Some of these sacks were as a result of the QB holding onto the ball too long. Still, the subpar pass blocking caused some rushed decisions in the passing game, a few of which produced disastrous results. This unit is the key to success for the 2005 Duke football team. They must be able to hold the line against whatever defenses they face. If they do, Duke should have enough weapons on offense to score many more points than last season. That will transform Duke from the doormat of the ACC into a team that will compete for a winning season.

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