Duke seeks NCAA waiver to allow Ohio State transfer lineman to play this season

Duke coach David Cutcliffe speaks to players on the sideline during the Blue Devils win over Wake Forest on Nov. 25.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe speaks to players on the sideline during the Blue Devils win over Wake Forest on Nov. 25. AP

With three starters to replace along its offensive line, Duke is taking a shot at adding another player for this fall’s team.

Center Jack Wohlabaugh transferred from Ohio State to Duke last January after two seasons with the Buckeyes. NCAA transfer rules require him to sit out a season before playing for the Blue Devils.

But Duke coach David Cutcliffe said the school is appealing the NCAA for a waiver that would allow Wohlabaugh immediate eligibility.

“We don’t know what his eligibility status will be,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re hoping we’ll get a chance to play him.”

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The 6-4, 295-pound Wohlabaugh was a three-star recruit out of Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, before joining the Buckeyes. He redshirted in 2016 and didn’t see any game action as a redshirt freshman last season.

Unless he receives an appeal from the NCAA to waive transfer requirements, he’ll have two seasons of eligibility with Duke beginning in 2019.

Duke needs to replace starting center Austin Davis, who completed his career in the Blue Devils’ 36-14 win over Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl last Dec. 26. Davis was Duke’s starting center the last two seasons.

Duke center Austin Davis discusses the team's bowl win which capped a 7-6 season to give Duke four winning seasons in last five years.

Zach Harmon started 13 games at right guard last season as a redshirt junior. He’s the leading candidate to be Duke’s starting center this season.

On the right side, Robert Kraeling and Rakavius Chambers are working as the first-team players at tackle and guard. Kraeling played in 13 games, with 136 snaps, as a redshirt freshman last season.

Chambers became just the second scholarship freshman offensive lineman to play in his first season at Duke under Cutcliffe. Chambers played in 441 snaps as a reserve, seeing action in all 13 games,

Cutcliffe likes what Kraeling and Chambers have shown over Duke’s first five spring practices.

“Really good start,” Cutcliffe said. “Their physicality is showing. Their ability level is showing. I’ve been really pleased with the work level with that.”

On the left side, Zach Baker and Julian Santos are working at left guard. Santos started all 13 games for Duke at left guard last season as a sophomore. Baker, who is entering his redshirt junior season, played in 12 games as a reserve in 2017.

At left tackle, Cutcliffe said there’s competition between Christian Harris, Jaylen Miller, Jacob Rimmer and Liam Smith.

The 6-6, 300-pound Harris, who will be a redshirt senior this fall, started one game last season and played in 11 others as a reserve at left tackle.

Daniel Jones on his MVP performance at Quick Lane Bowl, his health this season and Duke's prospects for 2018.

Rimmer (6-7, 295) took a redshirt season as a freshman last fall. He came to Duke as a three-star recruit out of Milan, Tennessee.

Smith (6-4, 270) and Miller (6-3, 305) will both be redshirt sophomores this season. Smith played in one game last season while Miller was in two games.

Rimmer’s classmate, Patrick Leitten, projected to be part of the competition for playing time. But Leitten (6-7, 265) suffered a torn ACL in practice last Monday and will miss the season after having knee surgery.

Jim Bridge took over the offensive line coaching duties for the Quick Lane Bowl and is now coaching that unit full time after working with special teams and tight ends last season.

Cutcliffe is happy with the group’s work under Bridge so far and wants strong internal competition to produce solid starters.

“If we have enough competition,” Cutcliffe said, “we have a shot at getting better there.”