DURHAM, N.C. – Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe and his eighth Blue Devil squad will open spring practice on Friday morning at the program’s Brooks Practice Facility. Per NCAA regulations, Duke will have 15 practice days.
Duke returns 51 lettermen and 15 starters from last year’s unit that went 9-4 and earned a berth in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Rising redshirt junior Thomas Sirk takes over as the first string quarterback in place of two-year starter Anthony Boone, who graduated after accounting for 6,589 total yards and 54 touchdowns and establishing or matching 12 school records. In 2014, Sirk played in 12 games and completed 10-of-14 (.714) passes for 67 yards and three touchdowns while rushing 47 times for 238 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns.
All-ACC center Matt Skura, a redshirt senior, headlines the list of six returning starters on offense that also includes redshirt junior tackle Casey Blaser, senior wide receiver Max McCaffrey, redshirt senior guard Lucas Patrick, senior running back Shaquille Powell and redshirt senior tight end David Reeves. McCaffrey caught 37 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns last fall while Powell, who rushed for a career-high 117 yards in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against Arizona State, led the Blue Devils with 618 ground yards on the season.
Duke loses four All-ACC honorees on offense in Boone, tackle Takoby Cofield (41 career starts), wide receiver Jamison Crowder (283 career receptions for 3,641 yards & 23 TDs) and guard Laken Tomlinson, who became just the fifth consensus All-American in program history.
Returning team captain and redshirt senior safety Jeremy Cash, a two-time All-America selection who has amassed 232 tackles, 20.0 tackles for loss and six interceptions in 27 career games at Duke, leads a group of six defensive starters back from a unit that ranked among the nation’s best in scoring defense by allowing just 21.8 points per game. Joining Cash are cornerback Breon Borders, safety Devon Edwards, cornerback Bryon Fields, safety Deondre Singleton and defensive tackle Carlos Wray. Edwards was an All-ACC choice last season after posting 133 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception and nine pass breakups.
Cutcliffe will have to replace three starters along the defensive line along with All-ACC linebacker David Helton, who in 2014 paced the conference in tackles (134) for the second consecutive season.
On the special teams front, all three starters return in snapper Thomas Hennessy, kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday. Martin, who booted 19-of-21 field goals and 50-of-50 PATs for 107 points last fall, and Monday, who averaged 43.0 yards per boot in 2014, both earned honorable mention All-American accolades a season ago. A two-time All-America pick as a return specialist, DeVon Edwards is back with three career kickoff returns for touchdowns to his credit. Duke must find a replacement for graduated punt returner Jamison Crowder, who set the school’s all-time record for punt returns for touchdowns with four.
Also for the 2015 season, Duke welcomes back into the fold three players who were significant contributors to the 2013 squad that won a school single-season record 10 games and captured the ACC Coastal Division Championship but missed this past season. Kelby Brown, an All-ACC pick at linebacker after posting 114 tackles in 2013, and tight end Braxton Deaver, also an all-league choice following a 46-reception, 600-yard, four-touchdown season, both missed the 2014 campaign after suffering knee injuries in August. Both Brown and Deaver will remain out of action during spring drills to continue rehabilitation. In addition, running back Jela Duncan, who rushed for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2012-13 seasons, returns following a one-year suspension from the school.
Duke kicks off the 2015 season on Thursday, September 3 at Tulane.
Spring Practice Set To Begin
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