ACC: John Drew
Strongest position: Wide receiver
Key returnees: Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, Austin Kelly
Key departures: No starters lost.
The skinny: The staff moved Johnny Williams to corner, which says a lot about how much confidence they’ve got in this group, considering Williams was a player who caught 31 passes last year. They should be confident, as Vernon and Varner were both among the ACC’s top six receivers last year. The group should only get better with the progress of Tyree Watkins, a freshman last year who saw some playing time but was injured and earned a medical redshirt.
Weakest position: Defensive line
Key returnees: NG Charlie Hatcher, DE Patrick Egboh
Key departures: DT Vince Oghobaase, DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk
The skinny: Redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby has starting experience at defensive end, but the line’s depth took a hit with the dismissal of DT John Drew, who played in all 12 games in 2009, including one start. He was expected to be a contributor this year. Egboh had 34 tackles with a team-high six quarterback pressures while Hatcher contributed 39 tackles with seven tackles for loss and a fumble return for a touchdown in Duke's win at Virginia.
Defensive linemen: Redshirt juniors and seniors comprised the bulk of the two-deep depth chart in 2009, and the recent dismissal of backup John Drew plus the graduation of Vince Oghobaase makes it a position of concern. The interior line needs the most help.
Running back: The Blue Devils never quite got their running game going in 2009 and will have to start to make a push at this position to help break in new starting quarterback Sean Renfree. Re’quan Boyette will have to be replaced.
Offensive line: In looking ahead, the Blue Devils will have six redshirt juniors or seniors up front in 2010. While that’s good news for the immediate future, Duke needs to work ahead for what it will lose in 2011.
Defensive backs: The biggest loss is obviously safety Morgan Burnett to the NFL draft, but the Jackets need to look ahead. Safeties Mario Edwards and Dominique Reese will be redshirt seniors this year, and cornerback Mario Butler will be a senior.
Defensive linemen: For the second year in a row it’s a concern, and thanks in large part to the NFL draft. Derrick Morgan will be missed, but overall this group needs an upgrade.
Offensive line: Three starters will have to be replaced, including the Canes’ top veteran, Jason Fox. Both guard positions are also short-timers, as Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa will both be seniors this fall.
Linebacker: Darryl Sharpton is the lone senior departing, but this unit could use more depth. It’s been a problem since Randy Shannon took over. And while the staff has made progress, injuries have continuously depleted the group.
Secondary: The Canes will have to replace Chavez Grant and Randy Phillips, and DeMarcus VanDyke will be a senior. Miami improved its interceptions in 2009, but not by much, ranking No. 87 in the country with nine. Of course, it helps to get pressure up front to force quarterbacks into those mistakes.
Offensive line: This is where the Tar Heels’ offensive improvement needs to start, and it didn’t help that this year’s unit was battered and bruised most of the season. Two starters will have to be replaced this year and five more of the top players in the rotation will be seniors in 2010.
Linebacker: UNC needs to reload at this position, and it's taking the right steps in that direction with this class. Although Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter elected to return, it’s only a matter of time before the talented seniors have to be replaced.
Quarterback: The Cavs have a lot of questions about this position heading into 2010 and beyond. The good news is that Michael Strauss has already enrolled this semester, so he’ll get an early start with spring ball.
Playmakers: Vague, yes, but it’s exactly what this program needs. Part of the reason Gregg Brandon’s spread offense didn’t work was because he didn’t have the personnel to execute it. Virginia will lose its most versatile player in Vic Hall, will have to replace fullback Rashawn Jackson, and needs more than just Mikell Simpson.
Linemen: The Hokies will need help on both sides of the ball, particularly interior defensive linemen. Six of the eight players on the 2009 two-deep defensive line were either juniors or seniors. Starters Ed Wang and Sergio Render will have to be replaced on the offensive line this year.
Defensive backs: This unit will be hit hard with departures in the next two seasons, as starters Kam Chancellor and Stephan Virgil have to be replaced in 2010, and Rashad Carmichael and Davon Morgan will be seniors.
Quarterback. With Tyrod Taylor being a senior next year, the staff will have to look ahead. There’s a lot of inexperience and question marks behind him. The one thing they don’t need in Blacksburg? Running backs.
It doesn’t sound like coach David Cutcliffe had much choice here.
The three players were charged with felonious possession and discharge of a weapon following an early-morning incident on the Duke campus and will not be permitted to return to campus, pending the resolution of the charges. No one was injured in the 3 a.m. incident, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
“These types of offenses are going to be associated with dismissal from our team,” Cutcliffe said in a prepared statement. “While these three young men did not meet the expectations of those in our program, our prayers are with them and their families during this difficult time. We’ll continue to move forward, and we are excited about the direction of Duke football.”Drew, a defensive tackle from Midland, Ga., played in all 12 games last fall with one starting assignment and finished the year with 34 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 0.5 quarterback sack, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Both Griswould, a running back from Midland, Ga., and Putnam, a defensive end from Peachtree City, Ga., did not play in 2009.