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July 25, 2007

Position Preview: Offensive Line

Fifth in a series of 2007 Duke football position previews

One of the overriding tasks facing Duke coach Ted Roof during his Blue Devil tenure has been constructing a sturdy and consistent offensive line.

Roof and his staff have devoted a ton of time and energy to recruiting linemen to help fill the cupboard and take a big step toward improving the stability and success of the line and the offense as a whole.

Will 2007 be the year all of the recruiting efforts begin to pay off?

RETURNING

Zach Maurides

2006: Started all 12 games and played 768 total snaps

Maurides showed a lot of commitment to Duke football when he elected to return for his fifth year of football despite some major earning potential off the field with a business that NCAA rules currently prevent him from being able to do much with. One of the top competitors on the offensive line, Maurides returns as the starter at left guard. In addition to starting all 12 contests last year, Maurides has an extra five games worth of experience from his sophomore year. He measures 6-6, 290 pounds.

2007 Projection: He'll be challenged by some of the upcoming talent, but it will be hard to uproot Maurides from his spot at left guard. Look for him to have another season's worth of starts, but with added depth behind him, Maurides may not have to carry as big of a load.

Rob Schirmann

2006: Started all 12 games, played at least 60 snaps in 10-of-12 contests

Schirmann's path as a player at Duke has been a favorable one. After a redshirt year in 2004, Schirmann got his feet wet with some action in 2005 and then started all 12 games in 2006 at right guard. Like Maurides, he will feel the pressure from behind him as several talented young linemen are set to compete for time this fall, but Schirmann's experience and continuity with the other returning linemen will make it very difficult to unseat him. He measures 6-5, 285.

2007 Projection: Will begin fall practice as the starter at right guard. We expect he will retain that starting job but will benefit from added depth behind him to help everyone stay fresh for the whole season.

Cameron Goldberg

2006: Started the first 10 games of the year before an injury against Boston College ended his season, named Duke's most outstanding offensive performer at the program's annual banquet

The best performer up front for Duke, Goldberg is the anchor for what should be one of the most improved units on the team. In the final two games of the season that Goldberg missed due to injury, the Blue Devils surrendered seven sacks. While Duke gave up a lot of sacks for the entirety of last season, it was still clear how much Goldberg was missed in the final two games. Goldberg's strength and toughness make him Duke's most likely All-ACC candidate along the offensive line. He measures 6-6, 280.

2007 Projection: Barring injury, Goldberg will man the left tackle post all year and will be charged with protecting Thaddeus Lewis's blind side. Goldberg will be one of the most important players on the entire roster. If he has a great year, look for Lewis and the Duke offense to continue progressing at a good clip.

Fred Roland

2006: Started all 12 games and was one of just three Blue Devils to play more than 800 snaps, co-recipient of Duke's most improved offensive player award

With a 415 pound bench press and a 515 pound squat, Roland is ready for another year of improvement at right tackle. The junior seems to have found his home at that position and is primed for a better year after starting all 12 contests last year. In 2005, Roland played in 11 games and his improvement into 2006 was impressive. He has another step or two up that he can make though, and his 6-7, 310 pound frame gives him the body type to be able to make those steps.

2007 Projection: Along with Goldberg, Roland should provide another bookend anchor for the line at right tackle. There are bodies behind him that will be pushing, but Roland's experience and track record of improvement should give him a leg up in maintaining his starting job all year.

Matt Rumsey

2006: Started all 12 games at center and joined Roland in playing more than 800 snaps for the season

Goldberg may be the best of Duke's offensive linemen, but Rumsey is the heart of it. The senior played in eight games as a freshman in 2004 and has started every game since, including all 12 last year and all 11 in 2005. With 23 straight starts under his belt, Rumsey has been through all of the wars and has experienced all of the disappointment that has come with Duke's recent struggles on the offensive line. The 6-4, 285 pounder is one of the strongest members of the team and is a great presence not only for the offensive line, but for quarterback Thad Lewis.

2007 Projection: Unquestioned starter at center. Rumsey is one of the top few players on the offensive side of the ball that Duke can ill afford to lose. His track record of consistency and longevity suggests he will be durable again in 2007.

Marcus Lind

2006: Redshirted

With tree trunks for legs, Lind owns the top squat on the team at close to 600 pounds. The redshirt freshman will be factored heavily into the playing time equation this year as he is fully capable of playing either guard spot. During spring practice, he also logged some time at center, and the coaching staff seems impressed enough with the 6-4, 300 pounder to expect that he could contribute this year. Of the redshirt freshmen on the offensive line, Lind is arguably the most advanced.

2007 Projection: Lind will push for meaningful snaps behind both Maurides and Schirmann. Barring injury to the top two guys, Lind can serve as a utility man backup for those two positions. He will very likely get some significant game action.

Mitchell Lederman

2006: Redshirted

The big man from Wisconsin benefited from his redshirt year by reshaping his body into a more solid 320 pounds. The 6-8 Lederman is capable of playing either guard or tackle and could see his most action at guard this season.

2007 Projection: Lederman will probably end up on the field for some meaningful snaps, although he is probably another year or so away from taking a feature role on the line.

Jarrod Holt

2006: Saw action in 10 games and was the only true freshman offensive lineman to play. Played a season high 45 snaps at Boston College.

Holt didn't have the luxury of developing slowly with a redshirt year last season. The highly touted prospect from Clearwater (Fla.) chose Duke over more than 20 other offers. As the most talented member of that freshman offensive line class, Holt was thrust into action right away to help bolster a very thin offensive line in 2006. He has shown some promise at multiple spots across the line, although at times last year he endured the struggles that can be expected from a true freshman lineman. The 6-6, 310 pounder would probably be in line to step in if anything happened to Cameron Goldberg at left tackle.

2007 Projection: Holt is going to be a cornerstone of future Duke offensive lines, and his sophomore season coming up should be the transition year to taking on a more featured role. He'll get his time this season because of his ability to play different positions.

Robert Drum

2006: Redshirted

Drum went through his redshirt year with some injury problems a year ago but was still able to bulk up in the weight room. The 6-6 redshirt freshman now weighs in at 285 pounds and is in line to compete for time at right tackle. As his body has grown, Drum has developed nicely so far in his Duke career. He is a shade behind the talent level and strength of Lind, but Drum is a very fine prospect in the redshirt freshmen group.

2007 Projection: Playing time this season will probably be fairly limited, but Drum is progressing toward a successful playing career in a Blue Devil uniform. He can also play some guard, but depth there appears more stable than at tackle.

Jeffrey Cowart

2006: Redshirted

In his redshirt year, Cowart's main objective was to work on his body's stability. He was able to do a lot of productive work, trimming his body fat and beginning to show signs of becoming more college ready. He is likely headed for a college career at offensive guard.

2007 Projection: Cowart will probably have a tough time breaking into the regular playing rotation this season because of the depth ahead of him. Another year of weight room work and development should greatly help him going forward into the coming seasons.

Ben Loebner

2006: Did not see game action

At 6-9, 310 pounds, Loebner is impossible to miss on the practice field. He's battled some health adversity in the past and is still working constantly on hardening his body for ACC action. His footwork is not quite to the level needed to play tackle in the ACC, so a good bit of his time in 2007 could come at guard.

2007 Projection: Like Cowart, Loebner still needs some more development before he will be thrown to the wolves. Thankfully for Duke, the Blue Devils now have enough depth where they can slowly develop a lot of younger players. Loebner will benefit from another year of training with the strength staff.

Garrett Mason

2006: Played in each of the final 10 games of the regular season and started the last two at left tackle in place of the injured Cameron Goldberg

A valuable utility man, Mason would probably get the first call to step in at center if anything happened to Matt Rumsey. He has also played guard and tackle over the course of his Duke career and has even logged time as a defensive lineman. That kind of versatility makes it a certainty that he will called on somewhere. As a senior, the 6-5, 300 pounder will get a chance to impact the Blue Devils.

2007 Projection: Where he will get the call is so far unknown, but Mason is able to do enough things that you know he will get the call at some point. Not a superstar, Mason gives needed experienced depth at plenty of spots.

ARRIVING

Chris Shannon

The three star prospect from Andover, Mass. has impressed the Duke staff with his skills and his body. In addition to his natural ability at tackle, Shannon is also adept at long snapping.

2007 Projection: If any of the true freshmen linemen get any playing time, Shannon's name would probably be the first called. A redshirt year seems more likely though.

Kyle Hill

Another promising prospect, Hill comes to Duke out of Orlando, Fla. The 260 pounder will be keeping busy in the weight room, where he will be bulking up from his high school days when he played mostly at tight end.

2007 Projection: Hill will likely redshirt. His future at Duke could potentially be at any of the positions on the line.

Bryan Morgan

Morgan nearly was a Blue Devil last year, but instead went to prep school for a year. A seasoned freshman, Morgan now weighs 255 pounds after graduating high school at a slimmer 245 pounds. Likely a center at Duke, Morgan still needs more weight on his frame, but his agility and skills are impressive.

2007 Projection: Morgan probably won't be ready for game action this year, but if he can ultimately get his body beyond the 270-275 pound range, he can be a real asset to the future of Duke's offensive front.

Jon Needham

A mountain of a man, Needham comes to Duke from Melrose, Mass. The 6-7, 305 pounder is already quite physically imposing. A little work in Duke's sophisticated strength and conditioning program should gradually develop his body into a menacing offensive tackle.

2007 Projection: Needham is probably the next guy in line after Shannon if for some reason true freshmen offensive linemen are called into action. More than likely though, that won't be needed. Look for a redshirt year for Needham to benefit him much like Lederman's did last year.

OTHERS

Justin Freeman returns as a walk-on reserve guard. There is also a possibility that defensive tackle Pontus Bondeson could make the move to offense. The 6-6, 275 pounder from Sweden will probably get some looks on offense in preseason practice. There is some belief that his potential is higher on that side of the ball. Defensive lineman Kinney Rucker also has experience on offense, but an impressive spring playing defense probably assures he will stay on defense.


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