Duke's Boyette 'going to be a factor'

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

At a recent practice, Duke running back Re'Quan Boyette approached quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and gave him a little reassurance.

"He came up to me and said, 'Man, look, I'm going to be that playmaker you need,'" Lewis recalled. "When somebody comes to you and says something like that, it's just encouraging."

In his first spring since recovering from a torn ACL, Boyette has backed up his promise and regained the form he had in 2006 and 2007 when he led the Blue Devils in rushing. Boyette has been slowly eased back to full speed, which for him means "explosively fast," according to coach David Cutcliffe.

"I feel a lot better," said Boyette, who had orthoscopic surgery on his left knee in August, and missed the entire season. "My knee is holding up really well. I progressed through the spring and I'm able to do a lot more things now than I was at the beginning of the spring, so that's a positive."

Boyette said he wasn't sure how the injury would impact his speed, and it wasn't until last Friday's scrimmage that he finally felt like he got his burst back. Boyette went untouched off right tackle for a 55-yard touchdown and finished with 68 yards on six carries. Cutcliffe said Boyette is "back to where he's going to be a factor."

"He looked like an all-star performer on Friday," Cutcliffe said. "Re'Quan is certainly in my mind the best weapon we have."

No pressure of course.

"Coach Cut has been around a lot of great players, and I just take that as a compliment from a coach like coach Cut," Boyette said. "I just want to continue to be consistent. I can definitely get better in a lot of areas. Him saying that now really humbles me and lets me know that coaches are looking at me. I can't disappoint my coaches, don't want to disappoint my teammates, don't want to disappoint the Duke community. Maybe it is a lot of pressure, but that's when the best players perform, when they're under pressure."

Boyette enters his final season with 1,072 career rushing yards. He has played in 33 career games with 10 starts, rushing 251 times for 1,072 yards (4.3 yards per carry) while catching 30 passes for an additional 140 yards. Boyette has five career touchdown runs and the Blue Devils will need his production, especially after the departure of leading receiver Eron Riley, one of the top offensive playmakers.

Boyette said he wanted to make sure Lewis knows he can rely on him.

"Me being out for a year, I just wanted to reassure him I'm still the same player I was before senior year, and he can count on me, whether it's in protection, whether it's in running, or route running, whatever, you can count on me." he said. "We need that for each other. It will help the offense out, also."