Combine that with a steady group of receivers, and the passing attack is much respected.
But the Blue Devils have strung together some stellar defensive stretches this season and those might start redefining the team.
"I think a lot of them are growing up," Cutcliffe said. "Our secondary systematically has gotten better. I think that should happen as the season goes. We're fighting each week to get better and that's what I like with our defensive football team."
Much of the improvement on defense comes because the Blue Devils are playing faster on that side of scrimmage. Cutcliffe said the reaction times are better and altogether some of the success is allowing confidence to grow on defense.
--S Matt Daniels was given time off early in the week as a means to recover from some physical games. Up to 15 players were given off some on-field practice time prior to the Virginia Tech game because of injuries. Coach David Cutcliffe said that number of players needing extra rest should be reduced to as few as five players leading up to the game at Miami.
--The Blue Devils have been penalized a combined nine times in their past two games. They were charged with only three penalties against Virginia Tech.
"We have to buy in to (get) every edge we can," coach David Cutcliffe said. "We think we've got to find every edge and certainly penalty discipline is one of them."
SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads Duke 7-1 (last meeting, 2010, 28-13 Miami).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense has shown decent movement of the ball, but inconsistency has been troubling. The Blue Devils haven't finished drives enough to become efficient. They settle for field goal attempts too often and sometimes they're not rewarded in the end for that. QB Sean Renfree has thrown seven interceptions and six touchdown passes.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Defensive linemen held up well against Virginia Tech and if steps in the right direction are made up front the rest of the defense could fall into good form. S Matt Daniels continues to receive much of the praise for his leadership with the defense and he backed that up with two interceptions against Virginia Tech.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to rub off and it's going to happen. The problem is you just don't know when it's going to happen." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe on the leadership offered by S Matt Daniels and how it impacts the team.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Duke at Miami, Nov. 5 -- The Blue Devils try to snap a three-game losing streak. Duke is 2-0 in road games this year, while Miami is 1-2 at home.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Duke will need a more consistent performance on offense to keep the pressure on. The Blue Devils have gone though some stale stretches and that ultimately have cost them. Gaining some confidence will be important for Duke, which has lost some of the shine that it built entering mid-October.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Donovan Varner -- With 183 career receptions, the senior is six off the school record set by Clarkston Hines. He has been back in the groove after a rough couple of games.
RB Desmond Scott -- He has 10 carries in each of the last three games and he has averaged 5.9 yards per attempt. He scored the Blue Devils' only touchdown last week against Virginia Tech.
S Matt Daniels -- He has broken up 15 passes this year, good for second in the ACC. He's the quarterback in the secondary
--P Alex King ranks second in the ACC in punting at 44.4 yards per attempt in conference games. He's also second in the conference covering all games at 42.8 yards per boot.
--CB Tony Foster, a converted receiver, started the second game of his college career (and for the first time on defense) when he was in the lineup against Virginia Tech. He filled in for CB Johnny Williams, who has a leg injury.
--RB Juwan Thompson was limited in the Virginia Tech game by design so it would lessen the wear and tear on his shoulder injury. It's hoped he'll be ready for a larger role at Miami.