DURHAM - BDN takes a look back at spring practice with this audio clip from Sean Renfree, the Blue Devil projected starting quarterback. Renfree of course, sat out for most of the spring rehabilitating his season ending injury from a season ago. All eyes will be on Sean Renfree this season with the loss of four year starter Thaddeus Lewis.
Playing one of the toughest schedules in the ACC and the country, including 4 straight games against ranked opponents to open the season, the Hurricanes finished the year at 9-4 overall, capped by a 20-14 Citrus Bowl loss to Wisconsin. For the second straight year, the Blue Devils gave the Hurricanes a scare, taking a 16-13 lead into the 4th quarter, but surrendered three unanswered 4th quarter touchdowns to fall 34-16 at Sun Life (Land Shark) Stadium. In 2010, Miami will have to replace three starters on the offensive line and will again take on a challenging schedule, including two Thursday night non-conference matchups in September at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh. QB Jacory Harris will return for his junior year and should be fully recovered from off-season surgery to fix the injured thumb that bothered him late in 2009. Miami is loaded with athletes on both sides of the ball, but their performance has been inconsistent in recent years. The keys for the 2010 Hurricanes will be the development of the offensive line and consistency in the running game; Harris alone is capable of making big plays, but he needs help from RB Graig Cooper and RB Damien Berry for the Hurricanes to compete for an ACC championship. Miami hosts Florida State in a big rivalry game at home in Week 6, and with two weeks to prepare, expect the Blue Devils to challenge Miami yet again in this matchup.
Week 8: October 23 @Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC)
Trips to Blacksburg rarely have been much fun for ACC teams and the Blue Devils are no exception, having never won a game at Lane Stadium. The Hokies have won 9 straight meetings between the two schools overall, including last year’s 34-26 win in Durham. Virginia Tech will feature a talented offense in 2010, led by QB Tyrod Taylor and two 1,000 yard rushers in RB Ryan Williams and RB Darren Evans, who returns after missing all of 2009 with an ACL tear. In a change from recent Hokie teams under Frank Beamer and DC Bud Foster, the offense may have to lead the way behind their senior QB, as the Hokies will be replacing six starters on defense, including 3 out of 4 spots on the defensive line. Duke will travel to Blacksburg as part of the Hokies’ four-game mid-season homestand, which starts with relatively easy matchups against Central Michigan and Wake Forest. The final game in the homestand will be a Week 9 rematch with 2009 ACC Champion Georgia Tech, and the Hokies might be tempted to look ahead. The Blue Devils' young defensive line will have to slow the Hokies’ rushing attack if they want any chance to escape Blacksburg with a win.
Week 9: October 30 @Navy (10-4)
Navy is a team that is flying under the radar heading into 2010 after a 10-win season in 2009, which was capped by a 35-13 drumming of Missouri in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmen return 15 starters in 2010, including senior QB Ricky Dobbs, who both threw and rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2009. This will be Duke’s second of three tests against the option offense in 2010. In their last meeting at Wallace Wade Stadium in 2008, the Blue Devils defeated the Midshipmen, 41-31, behind three touchdowns from Thad Lewis and Eron Riley. The 2010 matchup will be televised by CBS College Sports Network and will serve as Navy’s homecoming game. Navy’s 2010 schedule features three games against ACC opponents, with a trip to College Park scheduled for Week 1 and a trip to Winston-Salem in Week 6. The Blue Devils will travel to Annapolis a week following Navy’s nationally-televised (on CBS) matchup with Notre Dame at the New Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This game comes at a key stretch in the Blue Devils’ season and a win would significantly improve their postseason chances.
Week 10: November 6 Virginia (3-9, 2-6 ACC)
After two straight wins against the Cavaliers, the Blue Devils were sad to see Al Groh leave, and may be even more disappointed to see former Richmond coach Mike London on the sideline. However, after a disappointing 2009 that resulted in the dismissal of Al Groh, the Cavaliers have even more question marks in 2010 thanks to the departures of key players and the arrival of an entirely new staff. Virginia loses their top four rushers from 2009 in Jameel Sewell, Vic Hall, Mikell Simpson, and Rashawn Jackson. Marc Verica is the only returning quarterback with experience, and he may be challenged by four freshmen quarterbacks in the 2010 class, including early enrollee Michael Strauss. With the new staff, there is new energy in the program, and the Cavaliers have several key returners on the offensive and defensive lines, so there is a structure to build upon. Their schedule won’t do them any favors, however, with a potentially awkward season-opener against Richmond and a Week 2 cross-country trip to Pasadena to face Lane Kiffin’s Trojans. As the season progresses, the development of the many new faces, especially at the skill positions, will likely determine Virginia’s success in Mike London’s first season. The Blue Devils will need to continue to assert their dominance over the new-look Cavaliers if they hope to climb in the ACC Coastal Division standings.
Week 11: November 13 Boston College (8-5, 5-3)
Duke will face an unfamiliar foe in Week 11, as Boston College makes a rare trip to Wallace Wade Stadium. In fact, the two programs have faced each other just four times overall (1927, 1928, 1929, 2006), with the Eagles holding a 3-1 series advantage. Thanks to the unbalanced ACC schedule, the Blue Devils and Eagles last met all the way back in 2006 in Chesnut Hill, with Boston College claiming a 28-7 victory. Both programs have since gone through coaching and roster changes, so it will be a new test for both teams. 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich will make his return to the 2010 Eagles, after missing 2009 with Ewing’s Sarcoma. If Herzlich can continue his inspirational story by returning to his 2008 form and leading this defense, the Eagles will compete for their third Atlantic Division title in four years. The Eagles overachieved under Frank Spaziani in 2009, and with most of the team returning, including 26-year old sophomore QB Dave Shinskie, they will be a tough test for the young Blue Devils.
Week 12: November 20 @Georgia Tech (11-3, 7-1)
After a two-game homestand, the Blue Devils will make the trip to Atlanta to face the defending ACC Champions at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Coach Paul Johnson will have his work cut out for him as he and the Yellow Jackets prepare to defend their title in 2010. Georgia Tech will have to replace their leading rusher, leading receiver, and top two defenders in Jonathan Dwyer, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, and Morgan Burnett. On the offensive side, they do return All-ACC QB Josh Nesbitt, and B-Back Anthony Allen (and his 9.7 yards per carry in 2009). They’ll likely need to replace three starters on their offensive line, and have to find a receiver to replace Thomas to keep opposing defenses honest. The biggest changes, however, will occur on defense, where former Virginia head coach Al Groh takes over as coordinator and will switch the Jackets from a 4-3 to 3-4 scheme. The defense will need to make the transition smoothly to allow the Ramblin’ Wreck option-attack to control the game. In recent matchups, including last year’s 49-10 defeat, Duke has failed to match the physical play of the Georgia Tech linemen; this will be Duke’s third test against the option-style offense, and it will be important for Duke’s young linemen to be able to match the speed and strength of the Yellow Jackets this year.
Week 13: November 27 North Carolina (8-5, 4-4)
This rivalry matchup returns to its traditional spot on the schedule, as the Blue Devils will close out the 2010 regular season with the Tar Heels in Durham. Though the Tar Heels have dominated the series in recent years, the rivalry has still provided memorable games, including last year’s 19-6 loss in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels traded field goals through the first three quarters, with North Carolina taking a 9-6 lead into the 4th quarter. The Tar Heel defense and strong running of Ryan Houston were too much for Thad Lewis and the Blue Devils to overcome, as they failed to find the end zone, finishing just 2/13 on third downs, and gave up a total of 192 rushing yards to North Carolina. The 2010 Tar Heels will again feature one of the nation’s top defenses, thanks in large part to the return of 4 All-ACC defenders, who all elected to defer the NFL draft and return for their senior season. The biggest questions will be on the offensive side of the ball, where the Tar Heels will need to score points more consistently to compete for an ACC Championship. Tyler Yates will enter the spring as the starting QB, but if he struggles, redshirt freshman Bryn Renner may be given an opportunity. The Tar Heels will also need to replace two starters on the offensive line in front of Yates and RBs Ryan Houston and Shaun Draughn. Led by LB Bruce Carter and DT Marvin Austin, the Tar Heels will try to repeat their 2009 success against the Blue Devils with pressure and physical play at the line of scrimmage. The Tar Heels will play one of the toughest overall schedules in the ACC in 2010, and there is a good chance that the winner of this heated rivalry could claim both the Victory Bell and a bowl bid.