DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 14-of-17 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns to highlight Duke’s 80-play gridiron scrimmage on Saturday morning in the Pascal Field House.
Renfree’s first two scoring strikes of the day went to tight ends David Reeves (30 yards) and Issac Blakeney (71 yards) before he found wideout Blair Holliday for a nine-yard touchdown. Five of Renfree’s completions went for 15 or more yards as the rising redshirt senior averaged 15.7 yards per completion.
Wideout Corey Gattis led all receivers with six catches for 81 yards including a 42-yard touchdown from quarterback Thomas Sirk. Holliday finished with five receptions for 65 yards while Reeves had three grabs for 51 yards. Sirk enjoyed the morning by completing five-of-nine throws for 75 yards, rushing four times for 54 yards and catching a pair of passes for 25 yards.
Quarterback Sean Schroeder hit on five-of-nine passes for 46 yards while rushing three times for 41 yards. Running back Josh Snead carried the ball seven times for 27 yards while Juwan Thompson contributed a three-yard touchdown run.
Safety Jordon Byas paced the Blue Devil defense with one quarterback sack and one pass break-up. Nose guard Jamal Bruce, safety Walt Canty and linebacker Austin Gamble each registered one tackle for loss while cornerback Garett Patterson logged two pass break-ups.
Duke will host the program’s annual Spring Game presented by PNC Bank on Saturday, March 31 at Wallace Wade Stadium. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m., and admission is free of charge.
DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 15-of-19 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns while wideout Blair Holliday caught eight passes for 84 yards to highlight Duke’s 60-play scrimmage Saturday morning at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We really got what we wanted out of it,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. “We wanted to extend play. We’ve done a lot of fundamental work. This is practice nine. Probably more fundamental work and less team work than we’ve had in any time since we’ve been here. But we’ve worked on some of the ‘how’ before we were doing the ‘what’. I think it’s paid off. It’s paid off with players like Blair Holliday, who you can just see has jumped leaps and bounds from where he was. It’s paid off in a lot of our offensive and defensive linemen – first team and second team.”
Renfree’s two scoring throws covered eight and 15 yards, respectively, to Jamison Crowder and Holliday. Crowder finished the day with six grabs for 67 yards. Running back Josh Snead spearheaded the ground attack with 61 yards on eight attempts, including a one-yard touchdown plunge, while quarterback Brandon Connette rushed five times for 29 yards with a nine-yard touchdown.
“The coaches have shown great trust in all our receivers,” Holliday said. “We changed our offense around a bit where every receiver needs to know the positions; every receiver needs to come up and make big plays. It really just shows how much trust they have in us to put us out there and make plays.”
The final scoring play of the morning came on a 40-yard strike from Connette to tight end Issac Blakeney.
“Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are two very young tight ends that I can see now all of the work they’ve put in,” Cutcliffe noted. “If I had to probably pick one thing that the naked eye caught was Sean Renfree. He was a senior quarterback today. He was really sharp, and not just in the scrimmaging parts. From the first part of practice on — I watched him through seven-on-seven — everything was at a very high level. A lot of encouragement today.”
Safety Walt Canty registered the lone turnover of the day with an interception. Kicker Will Monday booted a 26-yard field goal along with a pair of PATs.
Duke will host the annual Spring Game presented by PNC Bank on Saturday, March 31 in Wallace Wade Stadium. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. and admission is free of charge.
Duke senior WR Conner Vernon is poised to rewrite the Duke and ACC record books during his final campaign in Durham this fall. Vernon will enter his senior year just 34 catches and 842 yards shy of the ACC career record-holders. After flirting with the NFL Draft earlier this offseason, Vernon is committed to finishing what he started at Duke before moving on to the next level.
BDN caught up with the Blue Devils’ star receiver after spring practice earlier this week.
BDN: You’ve been limited by injury this spring. First of all, how is your health right now?
It’s better. I’m back out there, I was out there today for practice, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
BDN: Should fans expect to see you in the Spring Game on March 31?
Yes, that’s what I’m hoping.
BDN: After three All-ACC caliber seasons at Duke, you considered entering the NFL Draft this year. Can you talk a little bit about that process and ultimately, why did you decide to return to Duke for your senior year?
Really, it just came down to just trying to finish what I came here to do at Duke, and that’s to get them back to the program they once were. I really just wanted to jump start the new direction that Coach Cutcliffe has turned this program around in. Also, finishing up graduating and getting my degree was a really big thing for me and my family, so that also played a role into it.
BDN: As a rising senior, you now become one of the veterans and leaders on this team. What is your assessment of the team in spring practice so far, especially as you compare it to past seasons?
This team, we’re a really young team, but we have a lot of talent, which is something we’ve had in the past, but I think the difference now is that we have a lot more depth at each position, and that’s going to help us a lot. We have a lot of young guys who have grown up a lot this spring, who have shown that they can play at this level, which is a big improvement from prior years. We have a very good recruiting class coming in that will have some guys who can play right away, and we’re hoping that will push some of the older guys to keep working to keep getting better. Really, that’s what this spring is all about. The competition level has been a lot higher than it has been in the past.
BDN: You mentioned the youth on this team and the higher level of competition in practices. Who are some of your younger teammates that have impressed you this spring?
From what I’ve seen so far, some of the young guys who have really stepped up is Blair Holliday at the receiver position, he’s taken on a starting role and has been playing a lot with the 1 offense, he’s really stepped up. On the defensive side, Kyler Brown, Kelby’s younger brother, he’s been all over the field, flying around, so that’s been really good to see. I’m definitely missing a few, there’s been a bunch. Dezmond Johnson has really stepped up on defense. There’s been a bunch of guys I’m missing right now, but when we pull up the tape you’ll see flashes from some guys that are really impressive and things that they haven’t shown in the past.
BDN: Over the past couple of seasons, Duke has struggled to score in the red zone. Why do you think this is? What are you working on this spring to improve the red zone offense?
I think it’s really just an execution standpoint, for some reason down there we just lack execution. It’s something we have to fix because we have to score points down there, field goals aren’t going to cut it, we need touchdowns. Also, down there execution is very important because you don’t have a lot of room to work with. It’s difficult down there to throw the ball so we have to have our running game, which has stepped up a lot this spring. That’s something we’re looking forward to this fall, being able to run the ball down there as opposed to relying on the past.
BDN: You’re closing in on an historic career at Duke, and looking to lead this team back to a bowl game in your senior year. What are some of the things that come to mind as you reflect back on your decision to come to Duke and your career here?
If I could do it all over again, I would do everything the same. This has been home for the last four years and it’s been a great four years. I’ve been put in a position with this offense and Coach Cutcliffe’s game plan to be able to be successful and have these kind of records, it’s an honor. From the moment I stepped on campus to where we are now, the difference is monumental. From our new facilities, we have the new Pascal Indoor Facility. When I first got here, the Brooks Facility wasn’t up yet, so I got to see that develop. Then we’ve added to our weight room, and really just the buzz around town is that Duke Football isn’t an afterthought now. It’s what’s happening now around Durham, and that’s something that was nonexistent before Coach Cutcliffe got here. Getting to see that grow has really been fun to watch.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Conner, and best of luck this fall.
This past weekend, BDN took in the first full contact scrimmage of spring practice where the offense was very successful in pretty much everything they did. There was a reason for that and you’ll learn the latest on spring football to date by watching our weekly Spring Football Update with Duke coach David Cutcliffe
The Duke Blue Devils took to the field at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday morning for their first full contact scrimmage of the season. The offense was clearly ahead of the defense which is learning a new scheme and missing six key players. As usual Conner Vernon made his presence felt as the Blue Devils pass receptions leader a year ago. BDN caught up to Vernon to talk about spring practice, the game and more via BDN Video.
DURHAM, N.C. – Safety Jordon Byas and defensive end Justin Foxx scored defensive touchdowns as the Blue Devil defense forced five turnovers to highlight Duke’s 75-play scrimmage on Wednesday morning at the Brooks Practice Field.
Byas scored the morning’s first touchdown by intercepting a Brandon Connette pass and returning the football 41 yards to the end zone. Foxx later scooped up a fumble and darted 35 yards for a score. Defensive end Kenny Anunike had one fumble recovery while defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento and cornerback Ross Cockrell carded one interception each.
“We had good work today; a lot of things happened,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. “We made it very game-like; played field position; played the game. The best thing that happened was our defense taking the ball away. Jordon Byas intercepted a pass early, took it back for a score, and kind of set the tempo of the game.”
Linebacker Abraham Kromah spearheaded the defensive attack with four tackles for loss including one quarterback sack. Anunike, Foxx, linebacker Austin Gamble and linebacker Tyree Glover also secured sacks while nose guard Curtis Hazelton was credited with two tackles for loss.
“I really like what we’re doing as a defense right now,” Kromah said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys learning the system and making plays. It’s exciting.”
On offense, running back Patrick Kurunwune rushed 13 times for a game-high 82 yards with one touchdown while Josh Snead added 56 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts. Snead’s 44-yard touchdown run marked the longest play from scrimmage on the day. In addition, Jay Hollingsworth chipped in 46 yards on the ground on 10 carries.
Quarterback Sean Schroeder completed 10-of-20 passes for 116 yards including a 36-yard touchdown pass to wideout Conner Vernon. He was intercepted once and added a seven-yard touchdown run. Connette finished the day eight-of-16 through the air for 97 yards with two interceptions and a two-yard scoring strike to tight end Cooper Helfet. Both quarterbacks converted two-point PAT attempts via the air with Schroeder hooking up with Austin Kelly and Connette finding Tyree Watkins.
Kelly caught a scrimmage-best four passes for 36 yards while Watkins had three grabs for 33 yards. Kurunwune and Vernon had two receptions apiece for 24 and 45 yards, respectively.
“It was great to see our receivers, who, with our young quarterbacks, probably haven’t been used as much,” noted Cutcliffe. “Our receivers got quite a bit more in the ball game and got more involved – kind of back to playing Duke offense in that regard. And then Jay Hollingsworth and Kurunwune and Josh Snead were all contributing some runs. We’re going to learn a lot from it. The thing I came out here today hoping to see was, number one, see us compete a little better. I thought we did that. Number two was to play with better feet all the way across the board. I’m hoping we did that, and I hope we played lower. We’ll look at the tape and see where we are.”
Kicker Will Snyderwine booted a 47-yard field goal and three extra points.
“I’m excited about the nine days that we’ve had,” said Cutcliffe. “They deserve a little spring break time, and then when we come back, we’re going to pick up right where we left off and have two good weeks. I’m excited – hopefully the weather will be a little friendlier and we won’t be the frozen tundra anymore.”
Duke’s next spring practice is set for Wednesday, March 17. The annual Spring game will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 27 in Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Blue Devils open the 2010 season at home against Elon on September 4. Season tickets may be purchased online at GoDuke.com or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office toll free at 1-877-375-3853. The Duke Athletic Ticket Office is located in Cameron Indoor Stadium and open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.