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Thursday, August 6, 2009
Duke football looking to build upon '08 success

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Entering his second season, David Cutcliffe has already made visible changes at Duke. There is a new practice field that now extends well beyond 75 yards. The players' lounge has been redone, and the signage changed. The tunnel has been resurfaced, the stadium restrooms remodeled. The video system was readjusted and Cutcliffe's office has been completely renovated.

The only thing left to change is the Blue Devils' record.

Duke begins summer camp this afternoon with the intention of building upon last year's four-win season and making the most out of one of the league's best quarterbacks.

"We've had a productive summer with our weight-room work and conditioning exercises, but now it is time to focus on preseason camp," said senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who as a starter for the past three seasons has thrown for 6,735 yards, the fourth-highest total in Duke history. "This team has a lot to prove. We haven't accomplished anything yet. We have goals, but if we don't take care of the little things over the next couple of weeks, it won't matter."

Duke's four victories equaled the total from the previous four seasons combined, and it was a season on the brink of being much better, as five the losses were by 11 or fewer points.

"Last year we were a good football team with a bad record," Cutcliffe said. "I'm certainly anxious to see how we respond this season."

That's one question facing the Blue Devils. Here are three more to ponder as Duke starts practice this afternoon:

1. Who will become the vocal and emotional leader of the defense, replacing the ACC's leading tackler in linebacker Michael Tauiliili? The frontrunners are Vincent Rey, who finished fifth in the ACC in tackles and averaged 9.1 per game, and Vince Oghobaase. The dark horse could be safety Matt Daniels, who is only a sophomore, but has the intangibles.

2. Will Duke go bowling? Considering the Blue Devils have to win seven games to accomplish that feat this year, it's going to be difficult. Because Duke scheduled two FCS schools in Richmond and NC Central, only one of them counts toward bowl eligibility. The Blue Devils could start the nonconference schedule 3-1, which means they'd need to find four ACC wins. Considering Duke has won just four ACC games in the past six seasons combined, the program would have to improve quickly for that to happen this year.

3. Will running back Re'quan Boyette regain his old form? Boyette missed all of 2008 with a knee injury, but he was Duke's leading rusher in both 2006 and 2007. When he's at his best, Boyette can run inside and outside the tackles, and he can also make catches out of the backfield. This spring Cutcliffe said Boyette looked like an "all-star," and they'll need him to be. Boyette is one of 11 active running backs in the ACC with more than 1,000 career rushing yards (1,072) entering the season.