There are always variables as a new season begins in college football. That holds true in Durham as well, though one constant will be starting quarterback Sean Renfree. The fourth year junior enters his second season as the starter and many believe Duke will only as far as Renfree can lead them. TDD spoke to the Arizona native about his team's preparation for the season.
"We've really had a lot of energy throughout camp on both sides of the ball," said junior Sean Renfree. "From the offensive side, we have some things that need to be fixed but that's the kind of jitters you expect when you start out. As the team matures those are things that won't happen so much."
The maturation process is something that was applicable to Renfree as a sophomore a season ago. After throwing 15 interceptions in Duke's first seven games, Renfree threw just two over the final five as his team averaged nearly 27 points per game.
"I think the game started to slow down as I got more and more comfortable and studied more and more film. I stopped trying to do too much too fast and just took what the defenses were giving me. Sometimes it is better to tuck and run instead of trying to force the ball. That's something I think I can build on heading into this season."
One thing that'll certainly help the second year starter is an experienced and physical group of offensive linemen. In fact the O-Line is expected to be one of the more solid positional groups on the roster even with the loss of preseason center Brian Moore. That's a luxury few Blue Devil signal callers have enjoyed over the last 20 years or so.
"Losing Brian is definitely not something we wanted, but we have a lot of big, physical guys who are hungry and eager to step up. We have a lot of very talented linemen around here. Coach Cutcliffe has done a great job of going out and recruiting some prototypical D-1 guys. We definitely have more depth, and you don't really want redshirt freshmen having to come in and start, but if we are in that situation there are some guys here who look ready to contribute."
With Moore sidelined between four and six weeks, the Blue Devils are going to move forward with David Harding at center for the first few weeks of the season. Like Moore, Harding is a much bigger player than departed center Brian Morgan.
"There really hasn't been much of an adjustment going from last year to this year because all three guys are great communicators. They really understand how to lead the offensive line. Brian and Dave have done a great job so far this year and are physical, heavy players who should be able to open a lot of holes for our running game. When Brian gets back we'll be that much stronger on the line."
Balancing the offense with a more reliable running game is certainly near the top of the priority list for the Blue Devils in 2011, but the bread and butter of any Cutcliffe offense will remain the ability to pass the ball effectively and frequently. Which is why Renfree was the first and biggest recruit landed during Cutcliffe's first year in Durham.
"We have a lot of guys in the passing game who can make big plays. Every practice is really competitive, which is a good thing. We are just looking for the right combinations and to put guys in positions where they can be the most effective. We have a lot of weapons."