"We start spring practice Friday, which is earlier than most people," said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who earned ACC and National Coach of the Year honors last fall after guiding the Blue Devils to 10 wins and a berth in the 46th annual Chick-fil-A Bowl. "I like the momentum of this squad. I want to see our young people in an environment where we're not putting a bunch of things in. We're going to think players, not plays. I want to see our young people compete. I want to see them compete with the other guys that are older. If we're putting too much in, then we're stymieing a young player. This is one way to keep the coaches from putting too much in, by making them go to practice immediately. I think our squad is loving it. It allows them to finish before spring break."
Cutcliffe's seventh Duke squad will feature 44 lettermen and 17 starters from a season ago. Included in that group are eight players who earned All-ACC honors in 2013.
On offense, Duke is led by redshirt senior quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette, who combined 4,023 yards of total offense and 45 touchdowns last fall. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder returns for his senior campaign after setting school single-season record for pass receptions (108; also an ACC record), receiving yardage (1,360) and 100-yard games (7) in 2013 and couples with tight end Braxton Deaver (46 receptions for 600 yards & 4 TDs in 2013) to give Duke a pair of All-ACC pass-catchers on the 2014 roster.
The Blue Devils return three starters along the offensive front including All-ACC guard Laken Tomlinson, while Josh Snead is back after leading Duke in rushing with 651 yards on 107 attempts in 2013.
Defensively, Duke's list of returnees is highlighted by All-America safety Jeremy Cash and the linebacker duo of Kelby Brown and David Helton. Cash posted 121 tackles and tied for team lead with four interceptions last year. Brown was a first team All-ACC selection after carding 114 tackles including 11.0 tackles for loss while Helton led the conference in total tackles with 133.
Duke opens the 2014 slate at home against Elon on Saturday, August 30 at Wallace Wade Stadium. Season tickets are on sale at GoDuke.com/tickets or by calling (919) 681-BLUE.