Duke's Cutcliffe not looking for 'quarterback controversy'

September, 14, 2009
9/14/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Duke coach David Cutcliffe wants to be clear -- Thaddeus Lewis is still his starting quarterback, despite the impressive performance off the bench Saturday against Army by redshirt freshman Sean Renfree.

“I don’t like having two quarterbacks,” Cutcliffe said on Sunday. “We don’t have two quarterbacks. Thad’s our quarterback, but we’re not going to be afraid to play Sean.”

Especially while Lewis is playing catch-up.

Lewis was one of about 30 Blue Devils infected with Swine Flu-like symptoms this summer, and then he had an ankle injury. Still, Lewis took the reps with the No. 1 team at practice on Sunday and will be the starter when the Blue Devils travel to Kansas this Saturday.

“We’ve got to get Thad on track,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s just missed practice a bunch. He threw about half the balls that Sean threw during training camp. He didn’t get a lot of work and I think it’s showing a little bit. We’ve got to get him back in rhythm, back feeling comfortable back there and he will.”

Meanwhile, Renfree has already made the most of his lone opportunity. On the first collegiate pass of his career, with Duke trailing 10-7 midway through the third quarter, Renfree threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Brett Huffman. It gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the season.

On Duke's next possession, Renfree engineered a nine-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Varner for a 21-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. Overall, Renfree came off the bench in the second half, completed 7 of 8 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and led Duke to a come-from-behind 35-19 win over Army.

“The coaches told me to start getting some snaps, start getting warmed up," Renfree said. "Army turned it over, and I didn’t get a chance to get any snaps or warm up. They were just like, ‘Go, go, go!’ I went in there, and Coach made a great call, a great bootleg. It was a lot of fun, but it kind of shocked me. I was nervous but confident.”

Cutcliffe intends to continue to play Renfree, it’s just a matter of when and where. He intended on getting Renfree into the game against Richmond, but never got to it. Cutcliffe said he’ll “go by feel” to determine Renfree’s future playing time.

“It’s like any position, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to do well,” Cutcliffe said. “Thad knows that. He doesn’t run from pressure. He’s been in pressure situations his whole career and he’s had tremendous success as you look at his numbers throughout his career, and I expect to see more of the same. I just want to see a high level of performance.

“I think Sean Renfree is a really well-prepared young player. If I thought he was ahead of Thad right now, he would have a chance at being our starter if I thought it was in the best interest of our team, but right now, total package, he’s not quite ready for that. But as he continues to groom and grow, the roles could change. We’ll just have to see as we go through. But we’re not trying to start a quarterback controversy and they know that.”

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