A lot to like in Duke's midfield

The lines are blurred in Division I lacrosse between attackmen and midfielders. It seems as if coaches have designated offensive players who play in the half-field sets, then run to the sideline on a change of possession. The game has become matchup based.

1. Duke: Rob Rotanz (23 goals, 5 assists), Justin Turri (14, 11) and David Lawson (23, 9) form the nation's most dangerous first midfield unit. Josh Offit (18, 5) will swing between attack and midfield. Freshmen Tanner Scott and Will Haus got some meaningful shifts in the fall. Coach John Danowski has athletes in transitional midfield roles with Brendan Fowler and Jake Tripucka. There's a lot to like in Durham.

2. Denver: Jeremy Noble (18, 16), Cam Flint (27, 11) and Chase Carraro (19, 2) form the nucleus of Bill Tierney's midfielders. The Pioneers are dangerous creators in transition, can dodge the shorties during settled situations and sting corners on E.M.O. Patrick Rodgers returns after injuries limited him last season. Depth comes from Hayden Shuette (9, 1) and freshman Wes Berg.

3. North Carolina: Injury issues in 2011 caused coach Joe Breschi to play many youngsters. The payoff comes this spring, as the Heels have a roster loaded with dangerous athletes. Jimmy Dunster (13, 8) was taken No. 25 in the MLL draft in January. Marcus Holman (23, 5) and Patrick Foster (15, 2) can swing between attack and midfield. Holman has a wonderful feel for the game, and Foster is a matchup problem. The Heels should love their depth with Mark McNeill (7, 3), Cam Wood (back after missing 2011 because of injury), Duncan Hutchins (7, 6), Will Campbell (2, 1) and Ryan Creighton (10, 3).

4. Cornell: Roy Lang (27, 9), Mike O'Neil (13, 4), Chris Langton (8, 7), Mitch McMichael (7, 7) and JJ Gilbane (12, 2) are all back. Each had double-digit points last season. Lang was the No. 11 overall pick in the collegiate draft.

5. Johns Hopkins: John Ranagan (18, 14), Lee Coppersmith (9G), Rob Guida (12, 1) and Mark Goodrich (5, 3) looked to be the foundation midfielders, but junior John Greeley (14, 12) tore his ACL last summer and has made a remarkable recovery, looking solid in his preseason and practice minutes so far. Hunter Rodgers had a productive fall. This group is overhyped based on the numbers.

6. Maryland: The Terps bring back a handful of proven performers and add an All-American transfer in Mike Chanenchuk. John Haus (14, 14), Jake Bernhardt (15, 3), Drew Snider (17, 3) and Kevin Cooper (7, 6) are known quantities. Joe Cummings scored 27 goals in 2011 and can play either attack or midfield as a flat-out goal scorer. Injuries have hampered Chanenchuk and Bernhardt.

7. Virginia: Colin Briggs had a breakout season with 29 goals in 2011, but he rarely drew the pole. That changes in 2012. Rob Emery (13, 7) and Chris LaPierre (6, 7) are both battled tested. Rookies Greg Coholan, Ryan Tucker and Carl Walrath were impressive in high school, but the midfield position is the toughest transition from high school to college.

8. Hofstra: Ian Braddish (16, 17), Steve Serling (3, 6), Brad Loizeaux (6, 4), Drew Coholan (2, 2), Adrian Sorichetti (12, 1) and freshman Korey Hendrickson give coach Seth Tierney high hopes in the CAA. Serling, Loizeaux and Coholan are coming back from injuries that limited them either last season or in the fall.

9. Harvard: Senior Kevin Vaughan (19, 8) leads the unit after moving over from attack last year. Brothers Terry (15, 7) and Alex White (8, 6) and Ryan Stevens (16, 5) will be the catalysts for Harvard's high-scoring offense. Freshman Sean Mahon will look to get involved early.

10. Syracuse: The Orange return zero All-American midfielders, and will rebuild with Bobby Eilers (8G), Hakeem Lecky and JoJo Marasco (23, 18) on the first line. Steve Ianzito (5, 3) will play a big part on midfield. Eilers and Ianzito showed flashes of brilliance last spring but will need to step it up. Lecky is one of the quickest players in the nation.

Best of the rest

Penn: Dan Savage, John Conneely, Drew Belinsky

Albany: Lyle Thompson, Rocky Bontitatibus, Ryan Feuerstein

Hartford: Jared Franze, Rory Nunamacher, Marty Bowes