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Friday, November 20, 2009
Duke struggling to stay healthy at QB

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Much attention has been paid to Miami quarterback Jacory Harris’ soft cast this week, but Duke could face a scary situation on Saturday at Miami if anything happens to keep starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis out of the game, even just momentarily.

The Blue Devils lost their top backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Sean Renfree, to a torn ACL for the rest of the season, and could be forced to turn to either a walk-on or a true freshman trying to redshirt if Lewis is unable to play.

Renfree, the program’s future at the position, tore the ligament in his right knee this past week against Georgia Tech and will need surgery. He played in five games this year and completed 34-of-50 pass attempts (.680) for 330 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. His best game came at Army, coming off the bench to complete 7-of-8 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns in Duke's 35-19 come-from-behind victory.

Lewis, who battled a case of the Swine Flu during summer camp, has struggled to stay injury-free all season. He’s listed as probable with a leg injury for Saturday. The first person coach David Cutcliffe would turn to off the bench would be Alex King, a walk-on reserve punter who has helped at times as a holder and has prior quarterback experience. King is the short-term option. If Lewis is out for an extended period of time, Duke would have to burn the redshirt of Sean Schroeder, who was rated the No. 29 quarterback in his class by ESPN.com. Schroeder has gotten some significant practice reps in Lewis’ absence.

“He’s aware of that, and knows even though it’s the 11th game of the year, he would come in and play,” Cutcliffe said. “There’s just too much on the line and too many other good reasons to play him. We’ve got direct snap stuff you can go in with your running backs, but I don’t know I want to play a whole game doing that if we lose Thad for an extended period of time.”

Odds are they’ll lose more than just Lewis if it has to come down to that. Duke is still playing for bowl eligibility and needs to win its final two games. Lewis has spoken in the past about how much it would mean to him to lead the program there in his senior season, so odds are he’ll do everything he can to stay on the field. Hopefully both he and Jacory can manage to do that, so the game is determined by their play, and not by their injuries.