Duke counting on more size and experience despite loss of Jack Wohlabaugh
By TOM SHANAHAN
Now the question is if Duke’s offensive line can simulate Clemson’s standards for quarterback Chase Brice.
Duke announced Brice, a Clemson graduate transfer, earned the starting job over weekend for Saturday’s opener at No. 10-ranked Notre Dame that has the added intrigue as an ACC game. Notre Dame is playing its first conference game in school history as a result of reshuffled schedules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As he got more comfortable with our system, what you could seeing was his experience,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe on Monday of Brice pulling ahead of returning QBs Chris Katrenick and Gunnar Holmberg in the camp competition.
“He’s a played a lot more football at this level than the other two have. Chase has a lot of games and game time at Clemson. You could see that in his pocket movement and feeling natural in the pocket and the timing mechanism on throws. As he got more comfortable his accuracy level on all his throws, deep balls, intermediate, short and layoffs, he just became and more and more the most comfortable quarterback on a day-to-day basis. As the week closed out last week that became more obvious.”
Brice has played 25 games in a backup role the past two years with a team that won the 2018 national title and earned a College Football Playoff berth a year ago. Duke’s offensive line wasn’t ready to play up to the standards of a ranked team a year ago in a 42-3 loss to then-No. 2-ranked Alabama and a 38-7 loss at home to the No. 15-ranked Notre Dame.
On the Duke depth chart released Monday afternoon, the offensive is a mix of two players retaining starting jobs, a starter replacing an injured starter, a graduate transfer stepping in with starting experience and a redshirt sophomore beating out a returning starter.
Across the front line it is left tackle Casey Holeman, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound redshirt sophomore; left guard Maurice McIntyre, a 6-4, 330-pound redshirt sophomore; center Will Taylor, a 6-3, 305-pound redshirt junior; right guard Jacob Monk, a 6-3, 310-pound sophomore; and right tackle Devery Hamilton, a 6-9, 310-pound graduate transfer from Stanford.
Fall camp opened with four returning starters and there are still four starters with multiple career starts among the top five despite the reshuffled look. Holman started all 13 games last year at left tackle, while Monk’s 13 starts were at right guard before shifting to right guard to make room for Hamilton, who had 10 career starts and is a two-time All-Academic All-Pac-12 choice.
Although the Blue Devils lost honorable mention All-ACC center Jack Wohlabaugh with a season-ending knee injury, Taylor started three games a year ago. He replaced Wohlabaugh after his ankle injury ended his season. McIntire is the newcomer, although he played in 12 games a year ago, including a start against North Carolina.
The odd man out is senior Rakavious Chambers (6-4, 335), who is listed No. 2 at right guard to Monk. Chambers started 12 games at right guard a year ago.
Duke spent fall camp focused on a versatile offensive line with interchangeable parts. Holman and Monk also took snaps at center. Cutcliffe said he was heartbroken for Wohlabaugh, a team captain, to suffer a season-ending injury, but he added, “Will is playing the best football since he got here.”
Cutcliffe also feels better about the depth and potential of the offensive line based on pushes from other young players. Taylor’s backup is true freshman Graham Barton (6-6, 315), a top recruit out of Brentwood, Tennessee. He also worked at guard and tackle.
Monk was a guard in high school and top recruit for the Blue Devils out of nearby Corinth Holders in Clayton, but the legacy recruit – his father Stanley played running back at Duke in the 1980s — proved himself among the top five linemen a year ago when he beat out returning right tackle Robert Kraeling (6-8, 310). Kraeling enters the year a backup left guard.
With Notre Dame an ACC member this year, the Irish were picked second in the conference behind Clemson. Notre Dame has two players named to the preseason All-ACC team, offensive guard Aaron Banks (6-5, 330) and linebacker Jermiah Owusu-Koramoah (6-1, 215). They are among 13 returning starters.
Duke’s lone preseason conference pick was Damond Philyaw-Johnson (6-2, 170) as a return man, although Cutcliffe also is optimistic the redshirt junior can put together a breakout season as a starting wide receiver.
Notre Dame’s lineup has been bulked up by four graduate transfers, cornerback Nick McCloud (N.C. State), safety Isaiah Pryor (Ohio State), wide receiver Ben Skowronek (Northwestern) and kicker/punter Dawson Goepferich (Brown).
Senior quarterback Ian Book returns with starts dating to his redshirt freshman year in 2017. Book (6-1, 208) a year ago was the first Notre Dame quarterback with 2,500 passing yard, 500 rushing yards and 30 touchdown passes. The only other quarterback crossing those hurdles last year was Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Duke was originally scheduled to open the season at home against Middle Tennessee, which lost last week at Army, 42-0. Notre Dame became the opener when the ACC revised the schedule and added Notre Dame
“When we found out we’re playing Notre Dame up there to open the season I think it helped us,” Cutcliffe said. “We realized the challenge that it is. It infused energy into the camp and practices.”Brice brings experience behind shuffled O line by Tom Shanahan Click To Tweet