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Duke football 2020 positional preview: Offensive line

The Blue Devils will look to establish the run and protect the pocket under a new offensive line coach.
The Blue Devils will look to establish the run and protect the pocket under a new offensive line coach.

With the 2020 season right around the corner, The Chronicle breaks down each of the eight major position groups for the Blue Devils: Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers and specialists.

Duke’s offensive line saw some significant changes in the offseason. Four newcomers joined the offensive line: freshmen Addison Penn, Graham Barton and Calib Perez, as well as Devery Hamilton, a redshirt senior transfer from Stanford. 

The most impactful change to the makeup of the Blue Devil offensive line came with the hiring of offensive line coach Greg Frey. Coach Frey previously served as the run game coordinator and offensive line coach at Florida State. He was brought in by Duke head coach David Cutcliffe to strengthen the offensive line. This group ranked as one of the best in the country under John Latina until he retired in 2016. An area for growth under Frey will be improving pass protection, thereby giving up less sacks than last season. 

Key players lost: Zach Baker 

One of the toughest losses for this year’s offensive line is the graduation of captain Zach Baker. Baker appeared in 44 career games, starting 13 times and playing 1,445 snaps in his time at Duke. He also was an Academic All-ACC selection in 2019. Throughout last season, Baker played at left guard and had a pivotal role on an offensive line unit that secured a spot on the Midseason Honor Roll for the Joe Moore Award. His dedication earned him the team’s Frances Cutcliffe Spirit of Perseverance Award. 

Projected starters: Devery Hamilton, Jack Wohlabaugh, Casey Holman, Patrick Leitten, Rakavius Chambers 

This year’s pre-season camp is off to a different start than in past years, due to the restrictions placed on athletic programs due to COVID-19. Despite the present challenges, the offensive line is putting in work and the starting unit is beginning to take shape. Two Blue Devil seniors, Jack Wohlabaugh at center and Rakavius Chambers at right guard will lead the offensive line. Alongside them in the trenches are Casey Holman, Patrick Leitten and Devery Hamilton. 

Holman started all 12 games at left tackle last season. He led the way for the Blue Devil offense to register over 40 points in four of five games. Chambers has played in 38 career games, taking the starting line 25 times and playing in 2,126 snaps during his time at Duke. 

Leitten will return to the field after sitting out last season due to surgery to repair his left knee ligament. Hamilton recently transferred to Duke from Stanford, where he started ten games on the offensive line. 

Dark horse: Graham Barton 

Barton has shown great promise throughout camp in the past few weeks. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman arrived at Duke as a three-star prospect and No. 14 offensive guard in the nation according to 247Sports.  So far in camp, the Tennessee-native has been working with the second unit behind Hamilton.

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