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Duke football 2021 positional preview: Offensive line

After missing the 2020 season to injury, redshirt senior Jack Wohlabaugh should be back into form as the team's starting center.
After missing the 2020 season to injury, redshirt senior Jack Wohlabaugh should be back into form as the team's starting center.

With the 2021 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. 

Heading into the 2020 campaign, Duke football’s offensive line was full of questions: who would replace injured starting center Jack Wohlabaugh? How would redshirt senior transfer Devery Hamilton fit into the puzzle? And how would things look under first-year offensive line coach Greg Frey? Luckily for the Blue Devils, their most important unit enters 2021 a great deal healthier and a whole lot more experienced, combining to produce a group that looks poised for success.

Key players lost: Rakavius Chambers, Devery Hamilton

Before we dive into this year’s prospects, it’s important to recognize that Duke will hit the field this season without two of its most important linemen from a year ago. Chambers, a recent Duke graduate who will forgo his fifth year of eligibility, has been an integral part of Duke’s efforts up front for the past four years with a staggering 48 appearances for the Blue Devils at offensive guard. As just the second true freshman to see regular playing time as an offensive lineman under head coach David Cutcliffe, Chambers leaves the program as one of the most consistent forces in recent memory.

Hamilton, on the other hand, certainly made his presence felt in the short time he was here. After transferring to Duke from Stanford, where he started 10 career games for the Cardinal before going down with a season-ending ankle injury in 2019, he remained healthy, started all 11 games for the Blue Devils and went on to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Las Vegas Raiders in May 2021. Both Hamilton and Chambers were crucial in their time at Duke, but the team will have to move on to new options this fall.

Projected starters: Graham Barton, Maurice McIntyre, Jack Wohlabaugh, Jacob Monk, Casey Holman

To be clear, everything along the offensive line begins and ends with 2020 captain and 2019 honorable mention All-ACC selection Jack Wohlabaugh. Returning from a torn ACL suffered during the 2020 preseason, Wohlabaugh would appear ready to play at the high level he’s clearly capable of and to anchor a suddenly experienced starting unit.

On that note, Duke returns three starters from the end of the 2020 campaign in sophomore Graham Barton, junior Jacob Monk and redshirt junior Casey Holman. Monk and Holman look set to reprise their roles at guard and tackle, respectively, while Barton is the current favorite to appear opposite Holman at the tackle position. The true sophomore and Brentwood, Tenn., native carved out a role for himself after filling in for Wohlabaugh and his injured replacement Will Taylor, starting the last five games of the season at center for the Blue Devils. As the youngest member of this year’s starting group, he looks nothing but prepared to step into his new role. 

That leaves redshirt junior Maurice McIntyre, who will likely get his shot this fall at offensive guard after starting three games in 2020. However, he played in all 12 games as a redshirt freshman and should prove to be a valuable option up front for the Blue Devil offense. Overall, it speaks volumes that the two most inexperienced members of Duke’s line, Barton and McIntyre, have seen so much of the field. If all else fails, this group’s experience and veteran leadership should guide them well in 2021.

Dark horse: Carson Van Lynn

While redshirt sophomore John Gelotte is also a logical choice as the presumptive third offensive tackle behind Holman and Barton, the biggest unknown on the Duke roster is clearly graduate transfer Carson van Lynn. Van Lynn, who comes to the Blue Devils after four years at Pittsburgh, started eight games in his Panther career after entering college as the second-rated offensive tackle prospect in the state of Ohio. There does not yet seem to be a role for him in the starting group, but be on the lookout for Van Lynn should injuries shake things up at any point.

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