Duke's Defensive Line has made incredible leaps in the two years since Ben Albert was hired away from Boston College, jumping from a ranking of 123 in 2014 to #31 in 2016 and #48 in 2017, per footballoutsiders.com's Defensive Line rankings. Now in his third year, Albert has been promoted to co-Defensive Coordinator and will play an even more prominent role in guiding the Blue Devils' defense to even greater heights than it has achieved in recent years.

A big part of that ascension has been an influx on talent under Coach Albert, with commitments from highly recruited "Rushmen" in Drew Jordan and Victor Dimukeje, who both played big roles in last season's 31st-ranked defense. Dimukeje finished the year as a First Team Freshman All-American while Jordan played in all thirteen games as a reserve but still logged sixteen tackles and three tackles for loss.

But one of Albert's greatest achievements as a defensive line coach at Boston College was taking unheralded recruits and turning them into the most dominant defensive lines in the country (BC was the #1 rated D-Line in Albert's last year). He has helped coach up two-star recruit Tre Hornbuckle to one of the better defensive ends in the ACC, as the true Junior returns as starter next year opposite Dimukeje.

On the interior, Duke will have to replace the veteran presence of Mike Ramsay, a two-year starting Defensive Tackle but Albert has some veteran guys who look like they'll be up for the challenge in Redshirt Junior Trevon McSwain and Redshirt Senior Edgar Cerenord. Adding to the upperclassmen is a strong group of youngsters, headlined by true sophomores Derrick Tangelo and Axel Nyembwe as well as Redshirt Freshman Ben Frye and Redshirt Junior Twazanga Mugala.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART

Defensive End Starters -

Defensive End Reserves -

Defensive Tackle Starters -

Defensive Tackle Reserves -

Last Year's Audit/Performance:

Duke's 29 sacks were the same number as they had in 2016, but is tied for the second-most by the program since 2008. The consistency is key here, as Ben Albert made his mark in a short time on a unit that struggled to generate backfield pressure before he arrived. The 86 tackles for loss was the most by a Duke unit since cfbstats.com started keeping metrics in 2008 and shows just how disruptive the Blue Devils' defensive line was last year. But while it's hard to quantify defensive line success by raw statistics because of so many variables involved in the game of football, the previously mentioned footballoutsiders.com's Defensive Line metric attempts to cut through the noise.

Bill Connelly and Brien Fremeau's numbers paint a picture of a Duke defense overall that was tough to go against, finishing 31st overall and in the Top 50 of six out of eight categories that they track. The defensive line, in particular, finished at #48 overall and was ranked in the Top 50 of all six categories (Adjusted Line Yards, Standard Downs Line Yards per Carry, Passing Downs Line Yards per Carry, Opportunity Rate, Power Success Rate and Stuff Rate).

Key Losses:

Ramsay is the only loss along the entire Defensive Line, but his contributions were immense. Not just on the field, where he started all thirteen games, but off the field as well as he served as team captain in his Redshirt Senior year. McSwain and Cerenord will team up to attempt to replace Ramsay's leadership, although it won't be an easy thing to do. And with Albert taking on additional duties as co-Defensive Coordinator, they will need to rely on the youngsters and Graduate Assistant Justin Manning to help smooth the transition.

Key Additions:

Duke landed Tahj Rice, the lone Four-Star commitment in the 2018 recruiting class, over a number of Power 5 offers and held on to him despite late charges by a number of established football powers. The 6'2", 320 pound versatile lineman is projected as an inside guy and will push the guys ahead of him on the depth chart for snaps early on.

Elijiah Brown was a standout D-Tackle at Charlotte's Providence Day, finishing high school as the #71-ranked defensive tackle in the country. The 6'4", 305 pounder will likely redshirt but has the talent to surprise a la Victor Dimukeje ahead of the higher ranked Rice.

Who/What To Watch:

Look for Dimukeje to play his way into an All-ACC season and potentially make his name on to an All-American team as he continues to improve on a stellar true freshman season. McSwain, a tall (6'6") Defensive Tackle, has the chance to make a name for himself in his Redshirt Junior year as well.

2018 Position Prediction(s):

Duke is loaded along the Defensive Line and has one of the best coaches in the game at the position. With almost every rotational guy back and another year under their belts, look for this unit to be a strong point on the team and one of the better ones in the conference and country.