Cutcliffe made his name in Knoxville, serving as Phil Fulmer's offensive coordinator for eight seasons in two different shifts. With a dual role as quarterbacks coach, Cutcliffe tutored Peyton and Eli Manning, as well as western N.C. native Heath Shuler – all three of whom were finalists for the Heisman Trophy. That tradition of developing quarterbacks followed the Birmingham, Ala. native to Durham, where Thad Lewis (274-of-449 passing, 3,330 yards, 20 TD, 8 INT) became the first Duke quarterback to earn All-ACC honors in consecutive seasons. While Lewis will be missed in '10, co-offensive coordinators Kurt Roper and Matt Luke welcome back nine starters from an offense that ranked ninth nationally in passing (305.0 ypg) and 69th in total offense (368.5 ypg).
Red-shirt sophomore Sean Renfree (34-of-50 passing, 330 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT) is Lewis's expected replacement, but true freshman Brandon Connette of Corona, Calif. reportedly turned heads in the spring after enrolling early. Whichever quarterback wins the starting job will inherit a full compliment of wide receivers, including Austin Kelly (54 catches, 625 yards, 4 TD), Conner Vernon (55 catches, 746 yards, 3 TD) and Donovan Turner (65 catches, 1,047 yards, 8 TD). Sophomore Desmond Scott (262 yards, TD) returns to try to jumpstart a ground game that managed just 63.5 yards per contest (120th), but he will be aided by four returning starters along the offensive line, led senior center Bryan Morgan.
Marion Hobby and Jim Knowles will share the defense coordinator duties in '10 after Duke finished '09 ranked 61st in total defense (368.6 ypg) and 83rd in scoring defense (28.3 ppg). The Blue Devils must replace three of their top-five tacklers, but six starters return last year's squad. Seniors Damian Thornton (60 tkl, 5.5 TFL) and Abraham Kromah (40 tkl, 2.5 TFL) provide experience at linebacker, while senior defensive end Patrick Egboh (34 tkl, sack) and junior defensive tackle Charlie Hatcher (39 tkl, 6 TFL) bring veteran leadership to the front four. Strong safety Matt Daniels (83 tkl, 2.5 TFL) anchors a secondary that welcomes back three starters.
Quotable: "I'm not going to lie, I kind of got a little charge out of that. Because when I first came, I wasn't used to that. That's not the world I come from. I've been really spoiled when it comes to winning and losing… That first year I looked at that [preseason poll] and holy smoke, I don't even think we had three digits [in the points column]. I said ‘Good gosh, are we really that bad?' Let me go back and look at more spring tape. So it's progress." – Cutcliffe on his team being picked fifth in the Coastal Division
Matchup to Watch: Thad Lewis and Duke's fifth-ranked passing offense walked into Kenan Stadium last November brimming with confidence, thanks to a 5-3 record and three straight ACC victories. But the Tar Heel defense held Cutcliffe's air assault to 212 yards below its season average, roughing up Lewis (16-of-33, 113 passing yards) and company to the tune of 14 quarterback hurries, eight pass breakups, three sacks and two interceptions. All-American candidate Robert Quinn directed the defensive nightmare, totaling seven tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and six quarterback hurries. Both squads return nine starters, but Duke will be looking at its 20th loss in its last 21 meetings with UNC if the offensive line cannot provide better protection than it did in last year's matchup.
Remember Me? Desmond Scott broke out onto the recruiting scene prior to his sophomore season at Durham (N.C.) Southern. He turned heads at the Scout.com and Elite 8 combines before posting a 4.47 40 and benching 185 pounds 23 times at the Nike event in the spring of '06. Former UNC head coach John Bunting's staff verbally offered Scott one month later, joining Clemson and N.C. State as his first offers before South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee extended offers prior to his junior season. But things settled down for Scott during junior season following a transfer to Durham (N.C.) Hillside. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder committed to Rutgers in June '08 before switching his commitment in July and ultimately signing with Duke on Signing Day.
2010 Schedule Sept. 4 Elon Sept. 11 @ Wake Forest Sept. 18 Alabama Sept. 25 Army Oct. 2 @ Maryland Oct. 9 OPEN DATE Oct. 16 Miami, Fla. Oct. 23 @ Virginia Tech Oct. 30 @ Navy Nov. 6 Virginia Nov. 13 Boston College Nov. 20 @ Georgia Tech Nov. 27 North Carolina