One On One With Brandon Connette

After losing most of 2011 to a season-ending shoulder injury, quarterback Brandon Connette has returned to the practice field. On Monday he spoke with TDD about his injury and getting back into the swing of things.

""I'm 100 percent healthy," said Brandon Connette. "I've been working non-stop with the trainers and am better than I was before the injury happened. My lift totals and weight room numbers have all gone up from before."

Connette, who was Duke's back-up signal caller heading into 2011, was injured against the Stanford Cardinal and didn't play against throughout the year. He has since been granted a medical hardship for 2011, meaning he has three years of eligibility remaining.

Of course the landscape at Duke has changed since he went down with the emergence of Anthony Boone and the arrival of freshman QB Thomas Sirk. Head coach David Cutcliffe has named Sean Renfree the starter, but has also made it clear that the best players will play. Which means every position is up for grabs.

"It's great to have so much competition on the roster - we've got four or five guys that could play anywhere in America and we're fortunate to have a great coaching staff who is loyal and very honest. Throughout my injury they continued to work with me and continued to pump me up. It was a big reason why I chose Duke. Coach Cutcliffe has never lost confidence that I'd be back to full strength."

Very early in 2012 it appears as though Boone and Connette will battle for the backup role to Renfree, though each will get a number of snaps per game according to Cutcliffe. Sometimes they'll be on the field together. Sometimes they'll run the offense alone. Regardless, Connette says he's better prepared to be under center than he was early on in his career.

"Being on the sideline allowed me to really study the game and analyze what is happening. I got to see the game from Sean's eyes, which was a huge advantage. He's a great QB and it is really impressive how he sees the windows really early and can anticipate and deliver the ball. That's something I knew I needed to work on and being able to see things from the sideline and in the film room really helped me."

Previously the Blue Devils relied on Connette and Boone to get yards on the ground more than through the air. This year, however, the plan appears to be changing.

"As a team we know we need to throw the ball down the field more than we have in the past. We've done really well with connecting short passes and moving the ball, but we need to be more aggressive in order to make things happen and take advantage of our situations. We've got guys like Blair Holiday, Tyree Watkins, and Issac Blakeney who are bigger receivers that can go up and get the ball all ready to go. I think we're going to be even more dangerous this season than we were in the past."

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