Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week we’re taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.
Position to improve: Defensive line.
Why it was a problem: Duke has to work harder than most every other school in the ACC at getting big guys up front who can blow their opponents off the ball. Run defense continues to be an issue for the Blue Devils, who took a step back in this category in 2014. Duke ranked No. 13 in the ACC and No. 92 in the nation in rush defense, giving up an average of 192.9 yards per game. Six times opponents rushed for over 200 yards; twice for over 300 yards. As a related stat, Duke did step up its sack production (29) but ranked No. 107 in the nation in tackles for loss, with only 4.7 per game. Its starting defensive linemen combined for just 20. That stat in particular shows the Blue Devils had a tough time getting into the opposition's backfield to make some plays. Duke had three new starters up front in 2014, so a transition period was to be expected. Still, this is an area Duke would love to see improved moving forward.
How it can be fixed: Duke needs to find and establish some rush ends who can help wreak havoc in the backfield, both on the passer and opposing ball carrier. Stability on the interior of the line is key, too. What will be interesting to see is the direction coach David Cutcliffe goes in hiring a defensive line coach after Rick Petri left following four seasons on the job. Might not be a bad idea to start fresh here.
Early 2015 outlook: Duke loses another three starters from its defensive line, with defensive tackle Carlos Wray the lone returner in the group. The Blue Devils are especially thin at defensive end, with seniors Kyler Brown and Britton Grier the lone returners among the top five players on the two-deep from 2014. Returning tackles A.J. Wolf and Mike Ramsay will be expected to step up. There are two redshirt freshmen to keep an eye on as well: Edgar Cerenord and Quaven Ferguson.