Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils are looking to end a four-year absence from the NCAA tournament, and this year’s team is probably the deepest that John Kerr has fielded entering his ninth year as head coach at his alma mater.
That depth will be put to the test early, however.
Less than two weeks before the season opener, junior forward Jeremy Ebobisse elected to turn pro and leave the program.
Ebobisse’s departure, coupled with the graduation of Zach Mathers, leaves Duke without its top two scorers from a year ago.
Ebobisse was a creative finisher on offense, and Mathers played all over the field in his career before blossoming into a first-team All-ACC forward in 2015.
Duke has veterans it can call upon to fill the breach.
Senior Brody Huitema and junior Brian White are proven scorers, and 6-foot-4 junior Cameron Moseley combines his size with great speed as a frontrunner.
Senior Jared Golestani and freshman Colby Agu add depth to the position.
The midfield, a key area in Duke’s 4-5-1 format, is largely a veteran unit with White, Macario Hing-Glover, Ciaran McKenna and Cody Brinkman back.
Junior Bryson Asher played extensively as a reserve, and sophomore Torbjorn Alseth looks like an option to spell McKenna or Brinkman as a holding mid.
Suniel Veerakone, a freshman, is a top prospect as a center midfielder.
Two defenders and the goalkeeper have to be replaced as well.
All three were graduate transfer students who played only one year apiece for the Blue Devils.
By coincidence, Duke will probably have another graduate transfer in goal for the third time in four years.
But which one?
Robert Moewes, from Dortmund, Germany, via Binghampton University, was a two-time America East Conference Goalkeeper of the Year.
He posted a 1-0 shutout last year against Ohio State, which would advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual champion Stanford.
The other transfer is Ben Hummel, a 6-foot-6 Californian who started at Princeton for two years and compiled a 20-9-5 record.
Both goalkeepers are enrolled in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
Another possibility at goalkeeper is junior Joe Ohaus, who started as a freshman but did not play soccer last year.
The defense will probably have an international look.
Markus Fjortoft of Norway returns as a center back with Carter Manley, an outside defender.
Kevon Black of Canada was a starter two years ago although he has been slowed by a concussion in preseason training.
Freshmen Max Moser of Austria, CC Uche, and Brandon Williamson are getting a lot of play here in the meantime.
Kerr on the Blue Devils:
“I like our depth. I know we can press teams and have guys come in when other guys are tired and not lose the quality. So for me that’s a big plus to where we’ve been recently.”
Quick Notes – 2016 Duke Blue Devils
Coach: John Kerr (161-117-33 in 16 years, 73-55-19 in 8 years at Duke)
2015 record: 10-7-2, 3-4-1 ACC
Finish: 8th ACC, lost in 1st round of ACC tournament
Starters returning: 6
Preseason ranking: Unranked
Key losses: F-M Zach Mathers 8 goals-8 assists-24 points, F Jeremy Ebobisse 7-4-18, D Jared Rist 1-4-6, D Tyler Hilliard 2-1-5, GK Mitch Kupstas 6-3-0 2 shutouts, 1.33 goals-against avg., GK Wilson Fisher 4-4-2, 1 SO, 1.71
Key returnees: Jr. M Brian White 6-1-13, Sr. F Brody Huitema 4-1-9, Jr. F Macario Hing-Glover 3-2-8, Jr. D Markus Fjortoft 2-1-5, Jr. D Carter Manley 0-3-3, So. M Ciaran McKenna 1-1-3, Jr. M Cody Brinkman 0-0-0
Top newcomers: Gr. GK Ben Hummel, Gr. GK Robert Moewes, F Colby Agu, M Suniel Veerakone, D Max Moser, D CC Uche, M Brandon Williamson
Won’t play: Clemson, Louisville, Syracuse