Boone Era Starts At Blue Devils Spring Game
By Eric Russell
Duke fans got their first glimpse at the new leader of the Blue Devils offense. QB Anthony Boone completed 18 of 30 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns in Duke's spring game Saturday. Boone has his work cut out for him attempting to replace Sean Renfree, who lead the team to its first bowl game in 18 years.
The good and bad was on display for Boone. He showed off his best quality in his arm strength, but his accuracy issues surfaced a few times as well. Boone threw two interceptions in the scrimmage. Despite that, Boone is the only realistic option the Blue Devils.
A notable aspect of the game was freshman early enrollee Parker Boehme getting the start at quarterback for the white squad. Thomas Sirk was expected to be Boone's backup this season, but a ruptured Achilles tendon has him out for the season. Boehme finished 11 of 13 for 128 yards and a touchdown.
Boehme's inexperience means they are limited at the quarterback position should Boone falter or get injured. Brandon Connette will probably emerge as the number two option for the Blue Devils now. Connette was used in various packages last season — primarily the wildcat.
The Blue Devils'' top receiver Jamison Crowder finished off a great spring with a big performance in the game. Crowder was named Co-Most Improved Player this spring. He hauled in four passes for 71 yards, including both of Boone's touchdown passes. Crowder will be Boone's security blanket during the season. He has the skills to be one of the top receivers in the conference. Crowder will benefit from Boone's big arm.
Eric Adams led the way for the running backs with 69 yards. Josh Snead carried the ball 11 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. Without knowing what to expect from Boone when the season starts Snead and company will need to exceed last season's workload and production. The Blue Devils were 100th in the nation in rushing yards. Of course, part of that was due to the abilities of Renfree and the passing game. Duke has been implementing some elements of the option into the offense which should give the run game a boost this season. Head coach David Cutcliffe will use multiple running backs in the backfield throughout the year. Each of them have something to offer.
It's hard to take anything from the defensive effort in the game considering many of the key contributors were sidelined. Based on last season the defense on the field Saturday still had those inconsistent moments that plagued Duke throughout last year. The white team — comprised of the best available defensive players — gave up 409 yards in the game. The defense was a liability for Duke last season. That has to change if the team has any shot at coming anywhere near the success of the 2012 bowl run.
During the five-game skid to end the season last year the offense was actually a little more productive than near the beginning of the season. However, it was the defense that gave up nearly 50 points per game in that stretch. The run defense ranked 10th in the conference and the pass defense was 11th. This was despite the defense having five defensive backs on the field in its unconventional 4-2-5 scheme. Not to mention Duke has one of the best defensive backs in the conference in Ross Cockrell
With the injuries during the spring it is uncertain where the defense stands. One thing is certain, senior leader Cockrell is going to have to be big in the secondary and will need to get similar production from his cohorts. The Blue Devils don't know yet if they have as much offensive explosiveness as last season, and even that wasn't enough toward the end of the year.
The experiment with the option seems promising with the pool available talent. The backfield depth and receiving corps will make Boone's first season at quarterback a bit easier.