Q&A with David Cutcliffe Part II

Earlier this morning we started a conversation with Duke coach David Cutcliffe to help preview the Blue Devils' spring practices, which begin today. Here is the second part of our interview:

Even though you have so many big shoes to fill, how confident are you that you can still be a better team next year?

David Cutcliffe: Oh I feel very good about that. All of our run game is back. Our line, for the most part, is back. We’re adding youth to it, and we’re continuing to get better at every position. Once we get Braxton Deaver back and get a tight end that can play in or out -- Issac Blakeney can play in or out, Erich Schneider can play in or out -- we’ve got slots, we’ve got wideouts. ... And we’re bringing a group in here that I think is real special, so I think the 2013 version of playmakers will be the best we’ve had at Duke. We just have to produce at quarterback like Sean was. All of the people who were kind of naysayers at times about Sean are realizing how consistent he was. We have to find consistency and big-play ability at quarterback.

How is Anthony [Boone] different from Sean [Renfree]?

DC: He is the new era of quarterback. Anthony is going to change our run game a good bit. He can prolong plays better. Just watch football, I don’t care what level -- it’s not just the zone read. Ben Roethlisberger is not that kind of guy, but he prolongs plays really well for the Steelers through the years. That’s how a lot of big plays occur. That wasn’t Sean’s strength. It is Anthony’s. Anthony is always dangerous back there. I think that adds a little bit of life to your offense.

What does he need to work on?

DC: Just accuracy, consistency that we had with Sean. He’s just got to be consistent. I want him to be able to throw the ball for 60 percent plus and be aggressive. You can’t afford to be aggressive if you’re not in that range. I’m using 60. It can be 58, 59, but it can’t be 50. We’re not a 50-50 proposition in our pass game, that’s not good enough.

How do you compensate for the loss of [Conner] Vernon?

DC: Jamison Crowder is the first thing you say. He had 79 catches, and we’re going to use him in a lot of different ways. I don’t think he’s a good player, I think he’s a great football player. I hope he’s capable of me saying that publicly, but he’s a great football player, one of the better ones I’ve had. He’s going to show up in a lot of places. [Braxton] Deaver, who was out all last year, certainly Brandon Braxton -- two experienced players who can make plays for you. Our running backs are going to show up in different places because we’re better there than we’ve been. I expect our completion number to escalate, but I also really expect our yards rushing to escalate. It may not be that we have a guy just like Conner opposite of Jamison, but we’re going to have more weapons, and that’s how you compensate for one guy that had such a spectacular career.

What was the attitude of the team in winter conditioning given how the season ended?

DC: The season didn’t end well. The bowl game didn’t end in a victory. We know the circumstance, but I’ll tell you what happened. Every one of them realized they belonged where they were. We were in November, and we were in the hunt to go to Charlotte and it was real. If we would have played as well as we could have played, we would have had a real opportunity to be there. In the bowl game, to most people who watched it, we looked like the better team. We really did. We made that statement early and often. But 15 bad plays cost us the game. What it’s done, the mentality is we know we can, but they’re hungrier. I like the edge we’ve got now. Had we won, it could have gone either way. Had we won, would we really be any better than we are right now? Would we be as hungry? I don’t know. But I like the mentality of our squad right now. They believe in themselves, but they also understand that more good things have to happen. They understand they best be hungry.