Duke coach David Cutcliffe built his reputation on developing quarterbacks and passing attacks. But he sees the need for a more balanced offense.
With that in mind, the rushing aspect of the offense was going strong by the end of spring practice.
"I felt like we did a real good job," said running back Desmond Scott, who'll be a sophomore in 2010. "We're going to be able to run the ball. That's what happened and I'm loving that right now."
During the March 27 spring game, incoming freshman Josh Snead racked up 99 yards on nine carries, while Scott gained 97 yards on 13 carries and quarterback Brandon Connette, joining Snead as a January enrollee, collected 91 yards on 13 carries to go with 67 passing yards.
"It's good to see us run the football," Cutcliffe said. "I like where we are with the running game now more than at any time since I've been here."
Still, the Blue Devils, who open the 2010 season Sept. 4 against visiting Elon, held back on the scope of their rushing offensive package for public consumption. But it was important to set the foundation and prove to themselves that the offense can move without flinging the ball around the field.
"We're trying to establish the run a little more," QB Sean Schroeder said. "I think we accomplished that."NOTES, QUOTES
--CB Johnny Williams is converted from a receiver. He said he hasn't ruled out lining up on offense at times and he said he'll continue to stay in touch with what's going on with the offensive playbook. Meanwhile, he has been plugged in as a first-string player on defense.
--The Blue Devils came out of spring practice mostly unscathed on the injury front. Coach David Cutcliffe said that no surgeries were necessary based on any injuries during the spring session and he expects a healthy team when practices resume in the summer.
--RB Josh Snead showed some breakaway speed and nifty moves in the spring game, capping what was a productive spring session for a player who left high school a semester early to join the Duke program. Given that finding a go-to running back is a priority, this puts him in line to contend for that role.
--CB Johnny Williams didn't flinch when he made the switch from receiver to the defensive backfield. Seeds for this move were planted after the season. "It's probably an easier transition than I though because I came from wide receiver and I know wide receiver tendencies," Williams said.
--QB Brandon Connette, a January enrollee, collected 91 yards on 13 carries to go with 67 passing yards in the spring game. But even before that his mobility has been looked at as an access by the coaching staff. If he's able to continue the rapid development during the summer, he could factor into the pecking order at quarterback as a true freshman.
--S Lee Butler has been a mainstay in the defensive backfield. But when he chased down speedy RB Josh Snead from behind in the spring game, it was one of those head-turning moments.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We didn't know who was here visiting us (as spectators at the spring game). ... That's just a paranoid football coach." -- coach David Cutcliffe on limiting the play-calling in the annual spring game. Duke's first two games come against nearby Elon and in-state ACC rival Wake Forest.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: Duke has climbed closer to reaching winning record in two seasons under coach David Cutcliffe. Coming off a 5-7 record in 2009, this third year would appear to be crucial.
There's the matter of shaking a season-ending, four-game losing streak, a stretch that included defensive shortcomings in the last three games.
Three of the first four 2010 games are at home and there are seven total home games so the schedule might stack up with some favorable elements even though one of those home games comes against defending national champion Alabama.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offensive line made strides in the spring and that group has the look of a cohesive unit. It's important that the Blue Devils address any issues along the line of scrimmage until the passing game shows it can click. Receivers didn't show the ability to separate themselves from coverage as much as coach David Cutcliffe would have liked during the spring. There might be several running backs ready to carry the load as there will be a push to do more on the ground than in the past. QB Sean Renfree is coming off knee surgery so until he's given the go-ahead for full activities is reasonable to have some questions.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Blue Devils showed more physical elements than in recent seasons on the defensive side in 2009. Keeping that mindset will be important as they look ahead.
The defensive front is thin on depth and that became evident during spring practice. There's more speed at some of the other positions on the defense, something the Blue Devils will have to use as a major asset.
S Matt Daniels is the leading returning tackler from last season with 83 stops.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: This area seems stronger than coming out of the spring of 2009, mainly because K Will Snyderwine, a former walk-on, is coming off a consistent season. There was some wayward punting in the spring game, so expect that to be scrutinized during the months leading to August practices.
RB Josh Snead -- The early enrollee was a standout in a couple of spring scrimmages. He has been durable and shown signs of being a playmaker.
TE Cooper Helfet -- He needs more consistency, according to coach David Cutcliffe, but he's becoming more comfortable with the offense.
QB Brandon Connette -- He joined the program as an early enrollee and has been a regular in workouts as one of two quarterbacks available this spring. He connected on 10 of 11 passes during one stretch of a scrimmage. His mobility is an asset that shouldn't be overlooked.
--QB Sean Renfree was more involved in spring practice than what was expected coming off knee surgery. While he didn't participate in any live action, he was a regular in 7-on-7 passing drills by late March. He'll be tagged as the first-string quarterback when practice resumes in August.
--QB Sean Schroeder, a left-hander and the most experienced quarterback in full spring workouts because QB Sean Renfree is recovering from knee surgery, completed 4 of 20 passes for 23 yards in the spring game. "It wasn't a great day, probably my worst day of the spring," said Schroeder, who'll be entering his redshirt freshman season. "We've got four months to correct this."
--RB Josh Snead is wearing No. 9 -- previously worn by quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who capped his record-setting college career in November. Snead is an early enrollee aiming to make an impact as a 2010 freshman.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010