#78 Duke Football Preview

Duke Blue Devils
Overall Rank: #78
#11 Atlantic Coast Conference

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2010 Record: (3-9, 1-7)
2010 Bowl: None
Coach: David Cutcliffe (12-24 at Duke, 56-53 overall)
Offensive Coordinators: Kurt Roper and Matt Luke
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Knowles

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Desmond Scott, RB, 530 yards
Passing: Sean Renfree, QB, 3,131 yards
Receiving: Conner Vernon, WR, 973 yards
Tackles: Matt Daniels, S, 93
Sacks: Kelby Brown, LB, 1.5
Interceptions: Ross Cockrell, CB, 3

Other Key Returnees: QB Brandon Connette, RB Josh Snead, WR Donovan Varner, TE Cooper Helfet, G Dave Harding, OT Kyle Hill, NG Charlie Hatcher, DT Sydney Sarmiento, S Lee Butler, K Will Snyderwine

Key Losses: WR Austin Kelly, LB Abraham Kromah, DE Patrick Egboh, DE Wesley Oglesby, CB Chris Rwabukamba

It is 17 years and counting since Duke last appeared in a bowl game. While Coach David Cutcliffe has an offense that has the potential to be one of the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference, his porous defense figures to once again keep the Blue Devils home for the holidays.

Coach Cutcliffe is renowned for developing quarterbacks. While Sean Renfree is not in the class as former Cutcliffe students Peyton and Eli Manning, the junior stands as the leading returning passer in the ACC with 3,131 yards in 2010. Coming off of a strong spring, Renfree is poised to improve on his total of 14 touchdown passes last season while cutting down on his 17 interceptions. Helping Renfree is a talented receiving corps led by Conner Vernon (an ACC-high 73 catches in ’10) and Donovan Varner (the conference’s active career receptions leader with 146). Whenever the Blue Devils get anywhere close to the end zone, they can count on kicker Will Snyderwine for an almost automatic three points. Snyderwine earned All-America recognition last season after making 21 of his 24 field goal attempts, including a fantastic 8 of 10 from 40-plus yards.

Duke fans can only imagine how good Renfree might be if he had any support from the ground game. The Blue Devils sported the worst rushing offense in the ACC in 2010, and the top ground-gainer, Desmond Scott, finished with just 530 yards. Scott does boast big-play ability, and if Duke’s offensive line did a better job of opening lanes for him he would become more of a factor. Coach Cutcliffe is confident that he now has the kind of talent that he needs on the line to have a well-rounded offense, but only time will tell if that unit is ready to make a positive contribution. There is no such optimism about Duke’s defense. The Blue Devils gave up the most yards in the ACC last year and the second most points. The front seven, in particular, failed to make an impact, as Duke finished towards the bottom of the nation in both rushing defense and sacks. Without any impact recruits coming to Durham, there is no reason to think that the Devils will have any bite on defense in 2011.

The Bottom Line:
Coach Cutcliffe was a leading candidate to take over at Tennessee following Lane Kiffin’s departure in January 2010, but he took his name out of consideration and affirmed his commitment to Duke. Unless he can develop an effective running game and assemble a defense that is more Doomsday than doomed, Coach Cutcliffe might live to regret rejecting the Vols. The pass-happy Devils should be fun to watch, even if victories remain scarce.

Projected Bowl: None

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 110.00 (104th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 271.33 (22, 2)
Total Offense: 381.33 (59, 7)
Scoring Offense: 25.25 (77, 9)
Rushing Defense: 208.25 (113, 12)
Pass Defense: 241.83 (96, 12)
Total Defense: 450.08 (108, 12)
Scoring Defense: 35.42 (109, 11)
Turnover Margin: -.92 (112, 12)
Sacks: 1.00 (113, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (72, 7)

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