Can 'Cut' cut it at Duke?

A lot of folks are scratching their heads now that Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is leaving to become head man at Duke, a program that seems to combine the worst aspects of Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

Like Vanderbilt, Duke is a school with high academic standards that prevent many quality athletes from qualifying for admission. Like Kentucky, Duke is a school where basketball is king and football is doomed to play second fiddle.

Given these shortcomings, it is understandable that the Blue Devils won just one of 12 games in 2007 ... that they won just six of 51 games under the just-fired Ted Roof ... that they won a mere 23 games over the past 12 seasons.

Still, at least one Volunteer player believes Cutcliffe will find a way to turn Duke into a competitive program. That would be senior quarterback Erik Ainge. Cutcliffe was his position coach and offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2007.

"There's no doubt in my mind that whatever he does and wherever he goes, he'll be successful," Ainge said recently. "He's never NOT been a successful football coach, and I don't ever see that changing.

The Vol QB appeared to be a hopeless head case after completing just 45.5 percent of his passes as a sophomore in 2005. His putrid 89.94 passer-efficiency rating was one reason the Vols averaged just 18.6 points per game en route to a 5-6 record.

Ainge got his career back on track during two years under Cutcliffe's tutelage, however. He compiled a 67.0 completion percentage and a 151.95 efficiency rating in 2006, then followed with a 63.0 completion percentage and a 134.64 efficiency rating in '07.

"He's the biggest reason that from my sophomore to my junior year I made the transformation I did," Ainge said. "He didn't really give me a choice. He said, ‘You've got the physical tools. Do what I say and here we go.'"


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