Tag Archives: Thad Lewis

Let's get this season started!

It’s always football season at BDN’s Football Friday

Happy Independence Day, Blue Devil Nation!

Even on a holiday weekend, it’s still time for BDN’s Football Friday, a weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. If you enjoy this weekly column, please consider becoming a BDN Premium Member and joining our growing community of Duke Football fans. As we say goodbye to the month of June, it’s time to look back at an eventful month in Duke Football, and look ahead to the 2011 season, which kicks off in just 63 days!!! Of course, it’s always football season at Football Friday.

It’s finally here!

Next week kicks off the release of college football’s preseason award lists. What, you thought I was talking about Harry Potter? Oh, please. Starting on Tuesday, the College Football Awards Association will release their preseason award watch lists. While Duke still has a long way to go in regards to earning the respect of the national college football community, there are a few Duke players who should be nominated. On Wednesday, the Biletnikoff (top WR) and Mackey Award (top TE) watch lists will be announced, and Duke’s Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Cooper Helfet are certainly deserving of consideration. As a 2010 semi-finalist, Duke’s Will Snyderwine should be named to the Lou Groza Award watch list on Thursday. Of course, the awards will ultimately be earned on the field, but it’s important for Duke players to receive the preseason recognition they deserve.

Changing of the guard

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced a few changes to his football staff today. “We are very excited with our recent hires and adjustments to the staff,” Cutcliffe stated.  “I have either coached or fostered long term relationships with each of these young people and their families.  It is great to surround yourself with people you deeply care for and know are winners on and off the field.  We approach the 2011 season with great enthusiasm.” Among the changes, the staff welcomes back former Blue Devil All-American defensive lineman Vince Oghobaase as a staff assistant. John Russell, a former NFL and Wake Forest linebacker, joins the staff as a graduate assistant, and current recruiting assistant Ben Loebner has been promoted to a graduate assistant. Former Duke All-ACC cornerback Leon Wright has been named a Defensive Operations assistant and Jomar Wright switches his title from graduate assistant to recruiting assistant. Marcus Johnson, a former NFL and All-SEC offensive lineman, joins the Duke strength and conditioning staff. Welcome to all the new coaches, and good luck this fall!

Welcome to Duke, Thomas!

Boy, that escalated quickly…

Duke entered the month of June with four verbal commitments in the class of 2012: TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, SAF Dwayne Norman, and LB Deion Williams. We now leave the month of June with twelve verbal commitments, capped off by a big week, in which the Blue Devils added their QB of the future in Thomas Sirk and one of the top TEs in the state in Dan Beilinson. BDN members were the first to hear about these commitments, and we’ll continue to bring you the best Duke Football recruiting coverage around.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley, and he remains their top target

 

 

Get ‘em while they’re hot…

With only a handful of scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke is hoping to land a few impact players over the next several weeks. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Blue Devils will need to add a RB in this class, and Tarboro’s Todd Gurley, along with Charlotte’s Jela Duncan, remain the coaching staff’s top two priorities. Gurley recently won a national championship in track and will represent the US in France later this summer. The Duke staff continues to work hard on the recruiting trail, hoping to cap off the class of 2012 with a program-changer or two like WR Drae Bowles or DT Korren Kirven. A quick look at the 2011 Duke roster shows that Duke will graduate 18 players this season. Duke is certainly hopeful that the group of redshirt-juniors will stay with the program for their final year of eligibility in 2012, meaning that scholarships are getting tight in the class of 2012. For those remaining prospects considering Duke offers, the smart move would be to act quickly.

Rams' QB Thad Lewis has high expectations for the 2011 Blue Devils

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’ll go bowling…”

With the NFL lockout dragging on, Duke has been fortunate to have former QB Thad Lewis around campus for most of the summer. BDN caught up with the Blue Devil record-holder earlier this summer, and GoDuke featured an interview earlier this week. Thad has big expectations for Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils in 2011, and after leading Duke to 5 wins in his senior year, he knows what it takes to win in the ACC.

Reasons for optimism

Overall, there is tremendous optimism around the Duke Football program, and many fans (with a few outspoken exceptions) have high hopes for the 2011 season. Starting next week, BDN will take an in-depth look at each of Duke’s 2011 opponents, beginning with the Richmond Spiders. We’re fortunate to have been able to team up with some great writers from other schools to give us an inside look at Duke’s competition. In general, though, we know Duke faces a tough schedule this fall, and after a 3-win season in 2010, why all the optimism? Before we start analyzing Duke’s opponents, let’s take a brief look at some 2010 statistics, and a 2011 position group assessment.

  • In 2010, Duke lost 4 games by 6 points or less.
  • Duke had 43 trips to the redzone in 2010, but found the end zone only 22 times, barely 50% of the time. Luckily, pre-season All-ACC kicker Will Snyderwine was able to add 16 field goals to help keep the Blue Devils in games.
  • The 3rd quarter was unkind to the 2010 Blue Devils. Duke either had a lead, or were within 1 score at halftime in 8 of their 12 games, but only won 3 games.
  • Finishing games was also difficult for the 2010 Duke team, as they had a lead or were within 1 score entering the 4th quarter in 6 of their 12 games, but again, only won 3 games.
  • Turnover margin may have been the key statistic to Duke’s 2010 season, but there is reason for optimism. Over the first 7 games, Duke had a turnover margin of -12 (21 to 9), but a turnover margin of +1 in their final 5 games (7 to 8).
  • The much-maligned Duke defense had difficult pressuring the quarterback all season, but again, there was subtle improvement. With just 4 sacks through their first 6 games, Duke finished with 8 sacks in their final 6 games. Five of Duke’s final six opponents were bowl teams.

It's no secret that Duke's 2011 hopes rest on the shoulders of QB Sean Renfree

 

 

QB: Duke returns their top two quarterbacks in 2011 in starting redshirt-junior Sean Renfree and sophomore backup Brandon Connette. With a year of starting experience under his belt, the expectations are sky-high for Renfree, who Coach Cutcliffe described as having a “great” spring. Anthony Boone will add depth to the position after redshirting in 2010.

RB: Duke returns all five of their running backs from 2010, led by junior Desmond Scott, who has paced the Blue Devils in rushing as both a freshman and a sophomore. Duke improved their rushing yards by 46.5 yards per game from 2009 to 2010, and scored 13 more touchdowns on the ground. With all of their top rushers and blockers returning, there is no reason not to expect similar improvement in 2011.

WR: Duke loses Austin Kelly, who had been a solid receiver for the program in his four years in Durham, but brings back All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon. Sophomore Brandon Braxton, after catching 14 passes in 2010, is expected to see an increased role as he fills in for Kelly. Tyree Watkins and Corey Gattis are two more underclassmen expected to fill out the depth chart at receiver in 2011.

TE: By the end of the 2011 season, junior college transfer Cooper Helfet established himself as one of Renfree’s favorite targets, and one of the top tight ends in the ACC. After a slow start and a nagging ankle injury, Helfet finished with at least 4 catches in his final 5 games, including a 122-yard game against Virginia. Redshirt-senior Danny Parker rejoins the tight end corps after the graduation of Brett Huffman and Brandon King. Redshirt-freshman Braxton Deaver is expected to compete for a starting spot this fall, and true freshman David Reeves is one of the top prospects in Duke’s class of 2011.

OL: Duke will return four of five starters in 2011, the lone loss being center Bryan Morgan. With Brian Moore sliding over to center from right guard, Duke’s entire offensive line should weigh in at 275 pounds or greater; redshirt-freshman Takoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson both eclipse 300 pounds and are expected to compete for snaps.

DL: This position is the big question mark on the 2011 Duke team, but there are plenty of reasons to expect improvement over 2010. Despite losing starters Patrick Egboh and Wes Oglesby, Duke will add seven (7!) redshirt-freshmen to the depth chart along the defensive line in 2011. The Blue Devils return redshirt-senior Charlie Hatcher, along with redshirt-junior Kenny Anunike, redshirt-sophomore Justin Foxx, and redshirt-sophomore Sydney Sarmiento. This spring, however, it was the redshirt-freshmen who earned the highest accolades from the Duke coaching staff, led by DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and DT Jamal Bruce. With the coaching of Rick Petri, athleticism of the young redshirt-freshmen, and overall increased depth, this is a unit that should improve week-to-week in 2011 and give the Blue Devils a chance to win ball games.

LB: While most fans are concerned about the Blue Devils’ defensive line, the linebackers are another area that needs to improve from 2010, but has significant losses. Leading tackler Abraham Kromah has graduated along with Damian Thornton and Adam Banks. Standout freshman Kelby Brown returns after knee surgery, but is expected to be a full participant in fall camp. Duke has to hope that junior Austin Gamble and redshirt-sophomore Kevin Rojas, who have shown flashes of potential in the past, are ready for a breakout season in 2011. Coach Jim Collins has developed some great linebackers at Duke, and he will need to work his magic this year, as outside of those top three, the depth chart will be filled with first-year players in redshirt-freshman C.J. France, freshman Kyler Brown, freshman Britton Grier, freshman David Helton, and freshman Jon Woodruff.

CB: The loss of senior Chris Rwabukamba will be sorely missed within the Duke secondary, but the coaching staff believes the Blue Devils have several athletes ready to step up at cornerback, led by redshirt-sophomore Ross Cockrell. Despite an inconsistent freshman year as a starter, Cockrell finished 6th on the team with 60 tackles, and led the Blue Devils with 3 interceptions and was 2nd with 7 pass break-ups. Cockrell should take a step forward, as will senior Johnny Williams, in his second full year at cornerback. Zach Greene, Tony Foster, and Lex Butler will fill out the depth chart, but they may be pushed by freshmen Jared Boyd and Tim Burton.

Duke safety Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC senior season

SAF: The strongest positon group on Duke’s defense is safety, and the new 4-2-5 defense is designed to exploit that strength. Senior Matt Daniels should be poised for an All-ACC caliber year alongside fellow senior Lee Butler. The Duke staff has high expectations for redshirt-sophomore August Campbell and redshirt-freshman Issac Blakeney.

ST: Duke’s special teams has developed into a strength in recent years, and with Will Snyderwine handling the placekicking, it should remain a strength in 2011. Freshman Will Monday is expected to come in and compete with senior Alex King for the starting punter job, and it should be a good competition to watch in August.

Next week

Man, I thought it was going to be a short column this week. That never works out. If you’ve missed any of our recruiting coverage over the past month, be sure to catch up, as it is sure to be a sprint to the finish here in July. The entire class of 2011 will be on campus starting this weekend, and on behalf of all of us in the Blue Devil Nation, welcome to Duke! We have big expectations for this class, and we know they’ll have great success in Durham.

Some upcoming highlights to note – we will kickoff our 2011 previews next week with Richmond and Stanford, so be sure to check back for those. We’ll also run an in-depth interview with one of Duke’s top running back prospects this weekend, so check back in between fireworks shows. Be sure to join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter. Have a great holiday weekend! Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.

 

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

 

NFL stars Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been working out at Duke this week.

BDN’s Football Friday

NFL stars Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been working out at Duke this week.

Fear not, loyal fans, Football Friday returns! If you’ve been under a rock for the past week, please be sure to check out all of our great interviews and reports from the NBPA Top 100 Camp. BDN was on the scene as always and has the best content with Duke’s prospects in 2012 and beyond. After a week hiatus here at Football Friday, we have a lot to discuss this week, so…lesssgo.

Congratulations to Kyrie, Nolan, and Kyle

All of us at Blue Devil Nation wish the best to Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler, as they begin their NBA journey. To hear their names called last night was certainly a dream come true for each of them and their families. We’ll be pulling for them and we know they will continue to make Duke fans proud in all that they do.

NFL stars invade Duke Football Facilities

With the NFL lockout continuing to drag on, former Duke QB Thad Lewis has become a fixture around campus this summer, but the Duke players were in for a surprise this week as they hit the weight room and the practice field. New York Giants Super Bowl XLII MVP QB Eli Manning has been working out at Duke this week with his receivers, including former UNC star Hakeem Nicks. The NFL players’ presence created a buzz on campus and among the Duke players, generating some excitement around Duke Football during the dog days of summer. It’s a great testament to the investment Duke has made in their football facilities that NFL players are working out on campus. As the program continues to build, Duke’s presence in the NFL should continue to improve.

Duke solidified their special teams for the future with Thursday's commitment from Ross Martin

 

Nine in Class of 2012

Duke is up to nine verbal commitments in the class of 2012 with the addition of kicker Ross Martin and offensive linemen Casey Blaser and Tanner Stone in the past week. All three were on campus recently for Duke’s football camps and outworked the competition to earn scholarship offers. At 6’5” and 6’6”, Casey and Tanner have solid frames to grow into with some work in the weight room, and appear poised to help anchor the Blue Devil line in 2012 and beyond. Martin is ranked as one of the top placekickers in the country by kicking guru Chris Sailer, and will join 2011 punter Will Monday to solidify Duke’s special teams for years to come.

Camp All-Stars

Duke hosted hundreds of young football players over the past two weeks, all of whom were looking to make a name for themselves in the eyes of the Duke coaching staff. Overall, the competition was outstanding and the Duke staff was thrilled with the turnout from not only the class of 2012, but future classes as well. Several of the camp standouts are already members of the Duke class of 2012, validating the staff’s previous scouting and evaluation. Jacksonville stars Dwayne Norman and Erich Schneider were impressive at safety and tight end; both remain solid verbal commitments to the Blue Devils. Along the offensive line, the two newest Blue Devils, Blaser and Stone, were among the best blockers on the field. The two big linemen have great athletic ability, work ethic, and football mentality.

Three 2012 quarterbacks stood out among the dozens of signal-callers who attended the various Duke camps and the David Cutcliffe QB College. The Blue Devils first offered Miami’s Bilal Marshall back in January, and they remain impressed with his dual-threat ability, hoping he will choose to become an impact player for the Blue Devil program. Highly-coveted lefty Tyler Cameron also showed great dual-threat ability, while 6’5” sleeper Thomas Sirk simply blew the staff away with his arm, ultimately earning himself a scholarship offer from Coach Cutcliffe. At the other skill positions, two receivers from the class of 2013 also earned themselves early scholarship offers. Jacksonville’s Ahmad Fulwood, at 6’4,” seemed to haul in everything thrown his way, while Ohio’s Shelton Gibson showcased his tremendous speed. Charlotte’s Jela Duncan posted a blazing fast 40 time, and he remains at the top of Duke’s RB wish list, along with Tarboro star Todd Gurley and bruising SC back Dondre Brown.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley, and he remains their top target

 

Rubber, meet road

With Duke’s camps now complete and fall training camp still over a month away, the focus over the next several weeks will almost exclusively be on filling out the class of 2012. With the advent of the internet, everyone is now able to become a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to recruiting. But unlike basketball, where one recruit can truly make or break a class, it’s essential to see the big picture in football recruiting. Let’s try to take a look at the forest, instead of the trees.

The best place to start is probably with a rough sketch of the Duke 2012 roster, barring any early defections or injuries, to give us a sense of the Blue Devils’ scholarship situation, depth, and needs:

QB (4): Sean Renfree (R-Sr.), Sean Schroeder (R-Jr.), Brandon Connette (Jr.), Anthony Boone (R-So.)

RB (4): Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Sr.), Desmond Scott (Sr.), Josh Snead (Jr.), Juwan Thompson (Jr.)

WR (8): Conner Vernon (Sr.), Corey Gattis (R-Jr.), Tyree Watkins (R-Jr.), Brandon Braxton (Jr.), Jamison Crowder (?So.), Blair Holliday (R-Fr.), Nick Hill (R-Fr.), Max McCaffrey (Fr.)

TE (5): Jack Farrell (R-Jr.), Ryan Hall (R-Jr.), Braxton Deaver (R-So.), David Reeves (?So.), Erich Schneider (Fr.)

OT (5): Perry Simmons (R-Jr.), Takoby Cofield (R-So.), Marcus Aprahamian (R-Fr.), Casey Blaser (Fr.), Tanner Stone (Fr.)

OG (6): Dave Harding (R-Jr.), Joey Finison (R-Jr.), John Coleman (R-Jr.), Laken Tomlinson (R-So.), Lucas Patrick (R-Fr.), Cody Robinson (R-Fr.)

C (3): Brian Moore (R-Sr.), Conor Irwin (R-Sr.), Matt Skura (R-Fr.)

DE (10): Kenny Anunike (R-Sr.), Justin Foxx (R-Jr.), Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (R-So.), Dezmond Johnson (R-So.), Nick Sink (R-So.), Jamal Wallace (R-So.), Sam Marshall (R-Fr.), Mario Sanders (R-Fr.), Allen Jackson (Fr.), Carlos Wray (Fr.)

DT (7): Curtis Hazelton (R-Sr.), Sydney Sarmiento (R-Jr.), Will Bryant (R-So.), Steven Ingram (R-So.), Jamal Bruce (R-So.), Lucas Fisher (R-Fr.), Carson Ginn (R-Fr.)

LB (9): Austin Gamble (Sr.), Kevin Rojas (R-Jr.), Kelby Brown (Jr.), C.J. France (R-So.), Kyler Brown (?So.), David Helton (?So.), Britton Grier (R-Fr.), Jon Woodruff (R-Fr.), Deion Williams (Fr.)

CB (8): Tony Foster (R-Sr.), Zach Greene (Sr.), Ross Cockrell (R-Jr.), Lex Butler (R-Jr.), Garrett Patterson (R-Jr.), Quan Stevenson (R-So.), Jared Boyd (?So.), Tim Burton (R-Fr.)

SAF (8): Jordon Byas (R-Sr.), Walt Canty (Sr.), Taylor Sowell (R-Jr.), August Campbell (R-Jr.), Anthony Young-Wiseman (R-Jr.), Issac Blakeney (R-So.), Chris Tavarez (R-Fr.), Dwayne Norman (Fr.)

K (2): Paul Asack (R-Sr.), Ross Martin (Fr.)

P (1): Will Monday (So.)

WR Drae Bowles could become a program-changer for the Blue Devils, on and off the field

With only a handful of scholarships remaining (if my math is right, please don’t check me), Duke has a glaring need at RB, where they will only have four scholarship players and no underclassmen. The expectation is that Duke will look to add at least one, but probably two running back prospects with their remaining scholarships. We also think that the staff would love to add a top QB to follow behind Boone, with Bilal Marshall and Thomas Sirk at the top of the list. At receiver, Duke could look to add someone alongside McCaffrey, and Drae Bowles is the number one priority; those around the program call the highly-coveted Bowles a potential program-changing recruit for the Blue Devils.

Duke probably needs to add another tight end in 2012 to join Erich Schneider, and the top two targets are currently Dan Beilinson and Ryan Morris. Elsewhere along the offensive line, Duke has a great amount of depth, which will allow Blaser and Stone to develop during their first years in Durham. There could be room for at least one more lineman in this class, and Duke remains hopeful that Alex Kozan or Andrew Jelks (who will not be announcing his decision soon, contrary to reports) will make their pledge to the Blue Devils.

Defensively, Duke has to be thrilled with the first three members of the class of 2012; both Wray and Jackson should develop into top ACC pass-rushing ends, and Norman is the prototypical hard-hitting safety the coaching staff loves. The biggest remaining need defensively is probably at defensive tackle, where Duke would love to add a potential program-changer in Korren Kirven (although another option could be to move Wray to DT and add an elite DE). A top prospect like Keilin Rayner or Jeremiah Allison to join under-the-radar commit Deion Williams would solidify the linebacking corps, and there’s room for at least one more defensive back at corner or safety.

With the graduation of pre-season All-ACC and All-American selection Will Snyderwine, there will be big shoes to fill at placekicker, and Duke hopes that Ross Martin, one of the top five kickers in the country, will be up to the task. Alongside Will Monday, Martin should carry the Duke kicking game for the next several years.

Give us back the Victory Bell, cheaters

 

Closing thoughts

With so many moving pieces, it’s hard to keep a finger on the pulse of football recruiting, and even harder to objectively evaluate individual commitments. Duke has done a nice job so far of adding solid athletes at positions of need (DE, SAF), while also bringing in a few prospects with high potential at positions of depth (OL, WR). Scholarships remain available for potential program-changers like Drae Bowles or Korren Kirven, and the best way to secure those commitments will be to win games this fall.

Well, that was quite the whirlwind of name-dropping. If we still haven’t satisfied your craving for Duke football, be sure to check out our recent previews featured on College Football Zealots and BC Interruption. And of course follow us on Twitter for up to the minute updates on Duke Football recruiting and team news. We’re on Facebook, too, by the way. And if you clicked on all the links in this article and are wondering why you can’t read the interviews, then it’s time for you to join BDN Premium. If you want to discuss Duke Football, correct my earlier math, or simply just want to become the most well-informed Duke fan on the planet, then you should also join BDN Premium. And current members, be sure to check out our new-look Football Message Boards today.

I guess that’s it for this week. Seriously? You were going to let me get away with that? Yeah, something kind of big happened in Chapel Hill this week. But see, there isn’t much to say, really, the NCAA took care of that for me. And so did Stewart Mandel. And Brett McMurphy. Good luck with all that, Butch. And give us back the Victory Bell.

Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.

This is a sample of the weekly Duke Football updates you’ll have access to as a BDN Premium member.  Join today and get inside access to happenings around the athletic programs where you’ll have a front row seat on the recruiting front.

Thaddeus Lewis Sets Career Passing Yards Record

thad lewis-block-300x200Thaddeus Lewis is now the all time leading passer in the history of Duke Football. He broke the record in his penultimate college game by throwing for 303 yards against the Miami Hurricanes to bring his career total to 9,678 yards. The record was previously held by Ben Bennett with 9,614 yards.

As a senior, Lewis has excelled by breaking multiple career passing records. In addition to becoming the all time leader at Duke in career passing yards, Lewis set records for touchdown passes thrown, career pass attempts, career pass completions, and career total offense. Lewis has thrown for 64 touchdowns during his career, attempted 1462 passes, completed 849 passes, and rolled up 9,599 yards of total offense eclipsing Spence Fisher’s previous mark of 9,110 yards.

The 303 yard performance against Miami was Lewis’ 10th career 300 yard game, which ties him with Anthony Dilweg for the school record.

After completing 40-50 passes for 459 yards and five touchdowns, against North Carolina State, Coach Cutcliffe stated, “I believe that was the finest game I’ve had a quarterback have in college.” That is high praise coming from a coach who previously coached Peyton and Eli Manning.

But Lewis wasn’t finished; he went out and completed 30-43 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns in leading Duke to a 17-13 victory over Maryland. Then he led Duke to their third consecutive ACC victory, 28-17 over Virginia, by completing 24-40 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown.

Lewis, and the entire offense, has benefited from playing in the same offensive system under the same coaching staff for a second consecutive season, for the first time in their careers. Lewis knows the offense, which allows him to be comfortable and confident on the field. Duke heads into the final game of the season with a 5-6 (3-4 ACC) record in a season that has kept fans in Durham excited about football into late November for the first time in many years.

Lewis’ career at Duke started on September 2, 2006, when the true freshman was inserted during the first game of the season against Richmond and completed 15-24 passes for 148 yards in the 13-0 loss to the Spiders. Lewis started the next 11 games and threw for 2134 and 11 touchdowns on the season. However, he was sacked 38 times and threw 16 interceptions.

The Sporting News named Lewis honorable mention Freshman All America as his 2134 yards passing set a Duke record for passing yards by a freshman. Lewis threw four touchdown passes against North Carolina, which was the most thrown by a Duke freshman since Dave Brown threw four against Wake Forest in 1989.

As a freshman, Lewis had his two best games against in-state rivals Wake Forest and North Carolina. On September 9, 2006, Lewis completed 21-32 passes for 305 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest. Against North Carolina, on November 25, 2006, Lewis completed 20-35 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns. Unfortunately, Duke lost both games as part of a 0-11 season.

As a sophomore, Lewis would have to learn a new offensive system as Duke brought in Peter Vaas, from Notre Dame, to serve as passing game coordinator. Lewis responded by completing 199-360 passes for 2430 yards with 21 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. However, Lewis was sacked 44 times during his sophomore season.

Against Navy, on September 22, 2007, Lewis had the best game of his sophomore season throwing for 428 yards and four touchdowns to wide receiver Eron Riley. However, Duke lost the game 46-43 as the Midshipman scored the games final 14 points.

The arrival of Coach David Cutcliffe in Lewis’s junior season meant Lewis would have to learn another offensive system. His third system in three years as the starting quarterback at Duke, and Lewis quickly proved he was up to the challenge and proceeded to earn Second Team All ACC honors by completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 2171 yards and 15 touchdowns. Moreover, Duke won four games with Lewis decreasing his interceptions to six and only being sacked 16 times. Those numbers suggested real success for Duke Football was just around the corner.

As a junior, Lewis enjoyed his greatest success in a 41-31 defeat of Navy on September 13, 2008. Lewis completed 25-35 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns to wide receiver Eron Riley.

Duke hosts Wake Forest at Wallace Wade Stadium next Saturday November 28th in the final regular season contest of the 2009 campaign. Blue Devil Nation encourages all Duke Fans to come out, join in the festivities, and cheer on Lewis and the entire Blue Devil squad.

Thaddeus Lewis one of five finalist for Unitas Golden Arm Award

Lewis during pre season practice - BDNP
Lewis during pre season practice - BDNP

DURHAM, N.C. Duke senior Thaddeus Lewis has been named one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, an honor presented annually to the top senior quarterback in the nation by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc., and Transamerica, a leading provider of innovative business and personal financial services.

Lewis is joined on the list of finalists by Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), Colt McCoy (Texas), Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) and Tim Tebow (Florida).

A 6-1, 185-pound native of Opa-Locka, Fla., Lewis has played in 45 career games at Duke with 44 starting assignments.  He holds school career records for total offensive yards (9,300), pass completions (829), pass attempts (1,425), touchdown passes (63), touchdown responsibility (71), touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.66-to-1) and total offensive plays (1,772).  Just one of three players in ACC history to throw for 2,000 or more yards in four seasons, Lewis ranks second in league history in career pass attempts, third in completions, fifth in passing touchdowns, sixth in passing yards and ninth in total offense.

Lewis has guided the Blue Devils to five wins in 2009 by competing 226-of-364 pass attempts for 2,640 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for an additional three scores.  In Duke’s 49-28 win at N.C. State on October 10, he completed a school single-game record 40 passes in 50 attempts for a career-high 459 yards and five touchdowns and was named the National Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Foundation for his efforts.

The 2009 winner will be presented with the Golden Arm Award on Friday, December 11 at the Tremont Grand Meeting & Banquet Facility in Downtown Baltimore. Joining the evening’s festivities will be a number of former Baltimore Colts teammates of Johnny Unitas, along with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr.

Last year’s winner of the Golden Arm Award was Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell. Other past winners include Matt Ryan (Boston College), who is now with the Atlanta Falcons; Brady Quinn (Notre Dame, 2006), now with the Cleveland Browns; the Arizona Cardinals’ Matt Leinart (USC, 2005), Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2003) of the New York Giants; the Cincinnati Bengals’ Carson Palmer (USC, 2002); and the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997).

“When you consider how many great college QBs have won the Golden Arm Award and have gone on to play in the NFL, it is clear that this award has become a significant barometer for future success in the professional ranks,” says John C. Unitas, Jr., President of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.

The namesake of the Golden Arm Award has a storied history which has earned him the recognition of being the greatest quarterback to ever play in the National Football League. An 18-year veteran of the NFL, Unitas played his collegiate career at the University of Louisville (1951-1954), passing for 3007 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Unitas began his pro career with the Baltimore Colts in 1958 and played there 17 years until joining the San Diego Chargers for his final season. His career passing figures include completing 2,830 of 5,186 passes for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns. Among his many records is one that may stand forever, throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games.

Unitas was selected as the top quarterback of all-time by the Pro Football Hall of Fame 36-member selection committee. In commemorating the NFL’s 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries, he was honored as the GREATEST QUARTERBACK OF ALL TIME. Unitas was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

Proceeds from the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards help to support the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation. The Foundation provides financial assistance to underprivileged and deserving young scholar-athletes throughout Maryland and Kentucky.

Duke Football Spring Practice – Thaddeus Lewis interview

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Duke Rising Senior Thad Lewis
Duke Rising Senior Thad Lewis

Duke Football is entering the stretch run of spring practice as they prepare for the 2009 season.  David Cutcliffe is in his second year as coach of the Blue Devils and he hopes that last season’s strides will help in building a solid football program at Duke University.  Despite the shortage of bodies this spring, the atmosphere around practice prompted Cutciliffe to state, “We look like a football team.”

The Duke staff returns intact, so the Blue Devils are showing the habits they learned last season early on this go round.  The Blue Devils’ senior leader, Thaddeus Lewis, took the time to discuss how practices were going with the Blue Devil Nation.

Thad, you are in your second year of spring drills under Coach Cutcliffe.  Are there any differences this year?

We have a year of experience under our belt.  We know what Coach expects out of us and he will continue to pound that into us day in and day out.

What have you worked on in the off season?

I got together with the offensive team and went through the plays which helps us to get better.  We were young last year, so we did a lot of things in the off season so we would be prepared for spring and wouldn’t look like a deer in the headlights.

There has been a lot of talk about the offensive line where Duke suffered some big losses and looks to rebuild.  What can you tell me about them as a unit?

The offensive line doesn’t get a lot of the credit they deserve.  Those guys are working hard and getting a lot of little things corrected which helps them get better every day.   A lot of people don’t know about them, but I work with those guys and they are very talented and very good.

Duke will have more depth at the tight end position this season.   What will that mean to you as a quarterback this season?

The tight end is the key to the offense.  They are the guys who can mix it up out there.  All those guys can block and catch.

What have Coach Roper and Cutcliffe talked to you about as practice has progressed?  What has their message been to you?

That I am a senior and they are looking for leadership out of me.  The biggest thing they want me to do is go out there and be consistent every day – not making the mistakes an experienced guy should make.  They want me to watch a lot of film and come back with questions in order to lead this offense and put us in the right position this year.

As a team, Duke suffered some huge losses.  Has there been anybody who has shown signs of stepping up and replacing a player like Michael Tauliliili?

We have guys like Vinnie Rey coming back and he will serve as a catalyst on the defense.  And [Vince] Oghobasse on the front line – they challenge the other guys who have a chance to play this year to work hard.  It’s kind of tough to run the ball against those guys and that’s what you like to see.

Are you already starting to think about Richmond [home opener]?

Definitely!  That’s always in the back of your mind, but our main focus is on spring ball.  But I do remember my freshman year when they came in here and beat us 13-0.  So when you see them on the schedule, of course you think about it.  We will concentrate more on them in the summer.  Right now?  We are just working on getting our system down on both offense in defense.

Coach Cutcliffe mentioned earlier that the lack of bodies available for spring will make it difficult to do certain things …

Well, with less players it’s a lot easier for guys to cop out, but you see those guys try to go about it hard.  We get more depth with reps, so that can be an advantage.

From a quarterback’s standpoint, what players have impressed you the most on the offensive end this spring?

The tight ends with guys like Danny Parker, Brett Huffman and Brandon King coming back have looked good.  All of the running backs have contributed, each and every one.  And the young wide receivers with Johnny [Williams], Austin [Kelly] …  we have a lot of guys stepping up every time out.  I’ve been excited with how they are coming along.  I expected them to grasp it pretty fast, but they are doing a lot of things you wouldn’t have expected right now.  We have improved as a football team this spring.[/private]

Quick hitter double header – Asack and Lewis talk Duke Football

[private]Zack Asack -

On the turnaround on offense this season -

Our offensive line has been doing a great job selling both the pass and the run.  Being able to run the ball has definitely opened up the passing game.  Overall, the whole offense is getting better – everybody knowing their assignments and who to block.  When the holes are real big, it’s easy to run.

On his role on the team -

I’m the back up.  I’m always ready to play and I’m always working as hard as I can every day in practice.  I’m always ready to go, but Thad is doing real well right now.  I have got some snaps in the second half which causes the opponent to switch up some on defense, so I try to make the most of it when I go in there.

On the lack of ACC wins and the Wahoo’s -

We’re 0-0 in the conference and we want to start 1-0.  Virginia is going to be a great contest for us.  It’s one game at a time and we are totally focused on Virginia at this time.

Thaddeus Lewis -

You are coming off a performance that earned you offensive player of the week.  How can you put the personal accolades behind you and focus on Virginia?

Personal accolades are a compliment but winning is the team goal.  I don’t really look a it or read the paper.  I didn’t even know it until my coach text it to me.  I just try to stay away from TV other than the games.  I just focus on us as a team.

Do you feel like you can carry over the momentum despite a bye week?

I’m pretty sure we will be ready.  The bye week is actually beneficial because some guys are banged up.  Some kids probably wouldn’t have been able to play had we not had the extra week.

Has Coach Cutcliffe alluded to the fact that Duke hasn’t won an ACC game in a while?

It’s ACC week.  That’s all he is saying that it is ACC week.  We are going to continue to do the things we do well.  It means a lot, it means a whole lot going into the ACC.

Is there more intensity?

He came out and let us know what time it was and what he expected out of us.  He’s a straight forward guy and he tells us what we need to do better to prepare for the ACC.  If you do things right in practice it will just come to you naturally in the game.  He’s done a great job of making me do that this week.

What’s made you a better quarterback this season?

Just making smarter decisions.  Listening to what Coach has been saying.  So, doing the little things  right and going out there and doing the things I can to help this team win.

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