ramsay

Senior Mike Ramsey is Duke's only returning starter on the defensive line. 

Duke football 2017 position preview: Defensive line



With the 2017 season right around the corner, The Chronicle's football beat writers break down each of the nine major position groups: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers, kicker/punter and punt/kickoff returners.

After failing to put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks in 2015, the Blue Devils were much more aggressive defensively last season.

While the Blue Devils were still just 10th in the ACC in sacks, they racked up 29—up significantly from 17 in the 2015, despite the loss of now-Los Angeles Chargers defensive lineman Carlos Wray. 

This year, the Blue Devils hope to be able to shrug off major losses up front in order to give quarterback Daniel Jones more time to run the offense. 

Key players lost: A.J. Wolf and Marquies Price

The Blue Devils will start the season without last season’s most valuable defensive lineman, A.J. Wolf. Wolf was dominant in his redshirt senior season, when he led the defensive line with 7.5 tackles for loss and Duke as a whole in sacks with 5.5. Due to his success on the field and his work in the classroom, the Greenwich, Conn., native was also named a finalist for the Pop Warner College Football Award in 2016.

Head coach David Cutcliffe also dismissed a pair of would-be junior defensive linemen, Brandon Boyce and Marquies Price, from the team for "failing to meet the standards of a member of the program."  

Price started 11 games for the Blue Devils last season and Boyce had played in eight after being suspended for the first three games of 2016. The departure of the trio of defensive linemen will leave defensive coordinator Jim Knowles strapped for depth up front. 

Projected starters: Mike Ramsay, Edgar Cerenord, Twazanga Mugala, Tre Hornbuckle

Ramsay was a strong force for the Blue Devils last season, tallying 30 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in 11 games. But the defensive tackle struggled to rush the passer, totaling just half a sack last year—he'll need to step up in that department in order to fill the void left by Wolf's departure. 

The redshirt senior will be the lone returning starter on Duke's defensive line. 

The Blue Devils will lose 33 career starts from their front, and will rely on unexperienced pieces. The most experienced player playing alongside Ramsay at defensive tackle will be Cerenord. The 6-foot-1, 300-pound redshirt junior played in 11 games last season, logging 133 snaps after playing in all 13 games his sophomore year. 

The two listed starting defensive ends heading into fall camp, Hornbuckle and Mugala, both have somewhat limited playing experience. Hornbuckle is more battle-tested, playing in all 12 games last season as a true freshman and starting against Miami. Mugala saw just two games in his redshirt sophomore season in 2016, playing five snaps. 

However, the ends have been far less set in stone than the tackles thus far—sophomore Terrell Lucas and incoming freshman and former four-star prospect Drew Jordan could also see significant time. Lucas played in every game in his true freshman season last year, logging 15 tackles. 

Dark Horse: Quaven Ferguson

Following a strong freshman season which included 17 tackles, Ferguson was quiet in 2016. The Easley, S.C., native played just four games last season, but could get an opportunity behind Cerenord. At 6-foot-2, 305 pounds, the redshirt junior could be a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line if he can get back to his productive 2015 self.

Check in tomorrow to see how Duke's talented returning linebacker corps could anchor the defense.


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