It was a record setting season for the Duke in 2013. Most wins in one season (10), most conference victories since 1989 (6), and a Coastal Division championship to advance to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game for the first time in school history.
But for Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone, there is only one number that matters right now.
“The only expectation that we’ve been concerned about is the fact that we’re entering the season with a two game losing streak,” Boone said. “That’s the bottom line. That’s all that matters. It made us hungry.”
A 45-7 loss to Florida State in the ACC Championship and a 52-48 defeat at the hands of Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M left the Blue Devils wanting more. That hunger has driven Boone and his teammates this offseason to prove they will be a force in the ACC.
Boone specifically has focused this Spring and Summer on aspects of his game that will in turn benefit the entire offense.
“I’m just trying to make sure I can become a better vocal leader,” Boone said. “Be more efficient with my reads and more consistent with where I deliver the football.
“My overall conditioning and agility as a runner, and just being consistent with the football… Just knowing that I’m going to be the most efficient quarterback in the ACC. Having the confidence that I can be the best quarterback in the ACC. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish.”
While Boone wants to be the best quarterback in the conference, he has already received recognition nationally. He made the Preseason Watch Lists for both the Maxwell and O’Brien Awards.
Although Boone appreciates the honor of being mentioned among the best players in the country, he realizes it does not mean much when he takes the field.
“As we all know preseason stuff is all fun and games, but it comes down to what you do on Saturdays,” Boone said.
The Duke coaching staff, particularly head coach David Cutcliffe, has developed Boone into the person and player he is today. Boone says he learned one of the most important things about being a quarterback and leader is how to conduct yourself long after you take off the pads.
“Playing the quarterback position at the full 360 degrees, being that guy in the locker room, being that guy on the quad in school, being that guy out in public at dinner, being that guy just in society,” Boone said.
“It’s not the coolest guy in the room. It’s the guy that you can rely on.”
The Blue Devils will certainly rely on Boone in 2014, but what about the guys behind him? Boone suffered a broken collarbone in week two of 2013 against Memphis, but Brandon Connette filled in nicely with nine passing touchdowns in three games as a starter.
Connette has since transferred to Fresno State, leaving Duke with a quarterback group that Boone describes as “extremely young and inexperienced, but very talented.”
Boone believes the work with the quarterbacks like Thomas Sirk and Parker Boehme in drills and practice will help them get used to the speed of the college game. He hearkens back to something assistant coach Zac Roper once told him.
“The true test of a quarterback is when you throw him out in the fire, out with the wolves and you see how he reacts,” Boone said.
After finishing last season in the top 30 in the country in total offense, Duke looks to build off that success and utilize the numerous weapons available at Boone’s disposal.
“It comes down to our guys versus their guys making plays,” Boone said. “We feel like we have the players that our guys are going to win a lot of those matchups.”
Winning those matchups on both sides of the ball will be key for the Blue Devils if they want to shake off the feeling of that two game losing streak and finish at the top of the Coastal Division in back-to-back seasons.