Replacing Thaddeus Lewis was going to be difficult for any quarterback. It’s not every day that a player throws for 10,000 yards and starts for four years but that’s exactly what Sean Renfree did. Renfree flourished in the role under QB guru David Cutcliffe, starting 36 games the last three years and throwing for 9,465 yards. Now, Anthony Boone, who has started one game in his career, will take the helm of the Blue Devils.
Boone, who decimated Virginia in his one and only start, has shown flashes of great talent if only a little less accurate than Renfree. Of course, Renfree leaves many quarterbacks behind there. He has the ability to create on the run and possesses a cannon of an arm. Because of his dual threat ability, Cutcliffe has chosen to move to a zone read offense this season. This offense, while placing more pressure on Boone’s decision making, will allow him to maximize his strengths.
During Vince Young’s magical 2005 season, the national championship year when they beat USC in the best Rose Bowl game in history, Texas ran the ball on 64% of plays. Young himself ran the ball 16% of all total plays that season. So, accounting for his passing as well, Young was making a decision to run or pass on roughly 50% of all plays. The reason I bring this up is because that is the ratio I expect the Blue Devils to shoot for.
As you can tell, there is a lot hinging on Boone’s ability this season and, unfortunately, Boone only. Main backup Thomas Sirk was supposed to be a competitor this fall, however, he suffered a ruptured achilles during Spring ball and will likely be unavailable until very late in the year.
Brandon Connette returns to play all over the field. There have been times over the last two years where you knew the play call simply because Connette was in the game. The versatile QB/RB/TE/MD/Ph.D./Carpenter was a dead giveaway for QB runs when he lined up behind the center. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world as he still managed to bulldoze his way to eight touchdowns on the season, more than the top four running backs combined. This year, he will serve as the primary back up should something happen to Boone, which, considering this is football, is destined to happen.
However, true freshman Parker Boehme might end up usurping Connette’s claim as he displayed a strong, accurate arm during the Spring Game. Connette, as versatile as he is, is limited as a passer and would limit what Duke could do in the zone read, similar to when Zack Asack took over for an injured Thaddeus Lewis at Virginia Tech a few years ago.
The lowest on the totem pole is Quay Chambers, the quarterback who has the skill set closest to matching Boone’s. The 6-3 215 pounder is a similarly versatile athlete with the strength and size to adequately fill in should the team contract the swine flu, again. Still, it is unlikely we see Chambers much this year but he will be a candidate to earn the starting job in two years along with Boehme, Sirk, and new commit Nicodem Pierre.
The long and short of it is that Duke has more dual threat options this season but because of Sirk’s injury, is wading in shallow waters. So much of the season hinges on Boone’s health that I would be surprised to see him in games when the outcome is no longer in doubt, i.e. the Bull City Classic. Still, I predict Boone to throw for 2,000 and run for 500 yards this season.