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Duke Blue Devils spring wrap

5/2/2013

Duke Blue Devils

2012 record: 6-7

2012 conference record: 3-5, Coastal

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

WR Jamison Crowder, RB Juwan Thompson, DE Kenny Anunike, CB Ross Cockrell

Key losses

QB Sean Renfree, WR Conner Vernon, S Jordan Byas, S Walt Canty

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Jela Duncan* (516 yards, 4 TDs)

Passing: Renfree (260-of-392 for 2,755 yards, 18 TDs, 8 INTs)

Receiving: Crowder* (1,025 yards, 8 TDs)

Tackles: Canty (102)

Sacks: Anunike* (5)

Interceptions: Cockrell* (5)

Spring answers

1. Anthony Boone is for real. People will still wonder how the Blue Devils are going to do without Sean Renfree, but Anthony Boone proved this spring he is the real deal. Boone was impressive as he took over the starting quarterback job, and allows the Blue Devils to add more option principles to the offense, which will make them much more unpredictable.

2. Receivers step up. Here is another question that coach David Cutcliffe believes has been answered this spring. The Blue Devils do lose Conner Vernon, but leading receiver Jamison Crowder returns and Cutcliffe had special praise for the way Max McCaffrey came on this spring. “The receiving corps, I thought, had a tremendous spring,” Cutcliffe said.

3. Defensive front. The Blue Devils went back to the drawing board on defense and decided to simplify the scheme, in order to have their players do less thinking and more attacking. The result, Cutcliffe believes, could be a much better group -- particularly up front.

Fall questions

1. Secondary. This unit has to be completely rebuilt, with Ross Cockrell the only returning starter in the group. And even he missed the second half of spring with an injury. Jeremy Cash, Dwayne Norman and Corbin McCarthy are the new faces that are expected to take their spots in the starting lineup, but don’t be surprised if true freshmen Evrett Edwards and Quay Mann play as well.

2. Can the run game improve? The Blue Devils appear to have great depth in their backfield with their top four rushers back. So the hope is they can have a much more consistent running game this season. Last year, Duke ranked No. 98 in the nation in this category. Boone should factor in here as well.

3. Inexperience. Though the Blue Devils do return a good many of their starters, the ones who are gone are at the key positions on the football field -- quarterback, two receivers, center and three players in the secondary. They will have to rely on players without much game experience at all those positions so how quickly they grow up will be a huge key for this team.