Cutcliffe 'comfortable' with development of O-line

Aug. 21, 2014 @ 07:19 PM

Lucas Patrick suffering a blow to the head that knocked him out of practice and the ongoing camp battle for playing time at right tackle did little to deter the progress for Duke’s offensive line.

With Patrick back at work after missing two scrimmages due to concussion protocol and Casey Blaser having emerged at right tackle, Duke coach David Cutcliffe is confident the guys up front will provide the bulk to power the Blue Devils offense this season.

“I feel pretty comfortable,” Cutcliffe said of the offensive line after Thursday’s practice.

Duke returns three starters along its offensive line in left tackle Takoby Cofield, center Matt Skura and all-ACC right guard Laken Tomlinson.

Patrick started one game at right tackle last season due to an injury to Perry Simmons but was slated to start at left guard this season. A practice injury kept him out of the majority of practices this month, but he returned to work this week.

While Patrick was sidelined, Cody Robinson filled in with the first-team offense. That move will only serve to give Duke more depth at the position now that Patrick has resumed working with the No. 1 offense.

“We feel good about Lucas if he’ll stay healthy,” Cutcliffe said. “But we feel real good about Cody Robinson’s development. We are working Sterling Korona at guard. We feel good about his development. He’s a good athlete and a good player.”

Korona began camp in the mix at right tackle, where Blaser and Stone were considered the favorites to win the starting right tackle job. Perry Simmons manned that position the last four years, starting 50 consecutive games.

Cutcliffe said Korona, a 6-7, 290-pound redshirt freshman from San Antonio, is a good enough athlete to handle learning both guard and tackle. Again, that helps Duke’s depth.

Blaser, a 6-5, 295-pound redshirt sophomore from Charlotte, is now working with the No. 1 offense. Stone, a 6-6, 300-pound redshirt sophomore from Dallas, Texas, is his reserve for now.

“I love it,” Cutcliffe said. “They are competing. That’s what it should be. I think we can be good there.”

Having been able to redshirt the incoming offensive linemen for the last few seasons, Cutcliffe said Duke’s depth there is good. He wants to make it even better.

Gabe Brandner, a 6-6, 275-pound, redshirt freshman from Blythewood, S.C., has worked at tackle and guard this camp. While Matt Skura is entrenched as the starting center, redshirt freshman Austin Davis has impressed the coaches in a reserve role this month.

“While Matt Skura is a better player than people know,” Cutcliffe said. “Your center is such a critical thing. Austin Davis, for example, has shown us in this camp that he can go into the game and play. We are trying to hunt more guys like that on the offensive front.”