- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Duke quarterback Anthony Boone said he isn’t nervous about taking over the starting job this spring for former veteran Sean Renfree, who finished his career ranked third on the ACC’s career completions list.
Boone isn’t exactly a novice.
In his first career start, Boone threw four touchdown passes to help the Blue Devils clobber Virginia, 42-17, last October. The previous week, Boone replaced an injured Renfree late in the third quarter against Wake Forest and scored the game-winning touchdown on a four-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve played a good bit of football,” said Boone, who played in 11 games last year and completed 51.6 percent of his passes for 531 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. “I feel like the two-quarterback system prepared me for being able to take control of the whole game and lead the team in the right direction and try to win football games and try to win championships.”
Last year, Duke shocked the ACC by being in contention for the Coastal Division title in November, but even with Renfree at the helm, the Blue Devils faded down the stretch and lost their final four regular-season games. Still, the program was lauded for playing in a bowl game for the first time since 1994, and coach David Cutcliffe was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year. Duke’s six wins last year were as many as Duke had had in the entire five years before Cutcliffe was hired. If Duke is going to build upon that success this fall, Boone must adjust quickly to the starting role. While he did make a splash in his first career start, it was also his only start.
Boone said there are some intangibles he’s been working on this offseason to become more of a leader.
“I have to be way more accountable than I was last year, and being vocal in the weight room and on the field, when we did conditioning and agility drills, being more vocal and leading by example,” he said. “I don’t have much room for error. I can’t slack off or be the guy called back for not doing a drill right.”
Boone said this spring he plans to “hop to the front of the line,” and break everything down before going into individual drills.
Duke’s passing game has been its forte under Cutcliffe. Renfree finished seventh on the ACC’s career passing yardage list with 9,465, and those within the program say Boone has a stronger arm and is more of a threat outside the pocket. Last year, Duke set a school single-season record for most games scoring 34 or more points with seven.
Much of the luster of those accomplishments faded with Duke, though, in November. Boone said he is determined not to let that happen again.
“I’ve been preaching to our team throughout winter workouts that our main goal is to finish,” he said. “We lost the last five games. Last year I felt like once we got that sixth win, it was like we weren’t pressing anymore. It was like a relaxed feeling, which we don’t want this year. We want to keep pressing. We want to win eight or nine games this year and put ourselves in position for a nice high bowl game in Florida maybe or in Atlanta, but we’re definitely looking for more than six wins, that’s for sure.”
And the Blue Devils will be looking to Boone to help get them.
3hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
1dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney