Tag:Connor Vernon
Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:13 pm

Spring Practice Primer: Duke

Posted by Chip Patterson

Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Duke.

Spring Practice Started: Wednesday, February 22

Spring Game: Saturday, March 31

Three Things To Look For:

1. Making sense of a crowded quarterback position. The Blue Devils return two-year starter Sean Renfree at quarterback. The senior has accumulated 6,325 yards and 32 touchdowns in his career as a Blue Devil, and is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the ACC. But head coach David Cutcliffe also used redshirt sophomores Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone often during the 2011 campaign. Both players are gifted runners and good complements to Renfree, but the pair have not been healthy/activated at the same time for an entire season. Cutcliffe even suggested there is a chance both backups could see snaps together in a game this season. With Sean Schroieder, Rob Collins, Mackenzie Soverign, and early enrollee Thomas Sirk; the Blue Devils have seven quarterbacks on the roster for spring practice.

2. Breakout stars. Duke returns 17 starters from last season, making them one of the more experienced teams in the ACC. But injuries have taken a toll on the Blue Devils during the offseason, and as many as six potential starters will be limited or out for a majority of spring practice. That list includes wide receiver Connor Vernon, who enters his senior year just 843 receiving yards shy of Peter Warrick's ACC record. With so many starters sitting out spring practice, Cutcliffe has encouraged the rest of the roster to "go take somebody's job." There could be a key contributor in the making that shows up this spring, one that could help the Blue Devils get over the hump.

3. Fixing the small mistakes. David Cutcliffe enters his fifth season with a 15-33 record. As News & Observer's Edward G. Robinson points out, that's five more wins than Duke's previous eight seasons combined. But while the improvement might be significant by Duke's standards, the Blue Devils have much higher expectations in 2012.

“We’re hunting another level of play,” Cutcliffe said. “We all know that we’ve played close games. We’ve been in a lot of games since we’ve been here really. Last year, we really did play at another level. And that level is not good enough. We have to make plays that win games. And consistently make plays that win games.”

Eight of Duke's 18 losses over the last two seasons were decided by a touchdown, with three in 2011 by five points or less. A field goal here or a defensive stop there could have put the Blue Devils back in the postseason for the first time since 1995.

To check in on the rest of the ACC and other BCS conferences, check out the Spring Practice Schedule

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com