Duke football concludes its official spring practice tomorrow in the annual Spring Game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium. Here’s a unit-by-unit breakdown of what to expect tomorrow afternoon.
The Blue Devils want to play faster than ever this season, led by redshirt senior quarterback Sean Renfree. Head coach David Cutcliffe, along with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, will look to vary the pace of the offense throughout the course of the game to keep the defense off balance.
The unit returns its biggest playmaker through the air in Conner Vernon, and the team’s top three leading rushers from last season—Juwan Thompson, Desmond Scott and Anthony Boone. Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder will fill in on the outside after the graduation of Cooper Helfet and Donovan Varner.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a play jump forward like he did [this offseason],” Cutcliffe said of Holliday, who is preparing for his sophomore season.
Despite the departure of Matt Daniels, who will likely be Duke’s first NFL Draft pick under Cutcliffe, the defense will employ a 4-2-5 formation for a second season.
The biggest difference will be the addition of Brandon Braxton in the secondary. The 6-foot-1 former wide receiver was switched to defense during the spring, and the coaching staff is pleased with his progression.
“We don’t have the best hands on defense,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “He upgrades our catching.”
Cutcliffe has also challenged the defensive unit to “be the fastest playing defense in America.” In response, Knowles has consolidated the play calling so he can just make one general call for each play, instead of trying to coordinate different signals to the linebackers, safeties and linemen.
Both Duke’s starting kicker and punter from last season are gone, but they will be replaced by redshirt freshman Will Monday, scout.com’s top punter in the class of 2011. He will be backed up by walk-on Jack Willoughby, who associate head coach and special teams coordinator Ron Middleton called a “God-send.”
Crowder will be back returning punts, though he will likely alternate with other players because of his increased role within the offense.