Our analysis on the starters, top backups, history and trends for Clemson’s trip to Durham on Nov. 3…
2011 Record: 3-9 (1-7 ACC, last in the Coastal)
2012 Duke Schedule
Sept. 1 FIU
Sept. 8 at Stanford
Sept. 15 NC CENTRAL
Sept. 22 MEMPHIS
Sept. 29 at Wake Forest
Oct. 6 VIRGINIA
Oct. 13 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 20 NORTH CAROLINA
Oct. 27 at Florida State
Nov. 3 CLEMSON
Nov. 10 Bye
Nov. 17 GEORGIA TECH
Nov. 24 at MIAMI
Duke Quick Profile
Coach: David Cutcliffe (59-62 career record, 6-26 against ACC [0-1 vs. Clemson], fifth year at Duke).
Offense (2011 ranks): Pro-style (Total offense: 79th/Rush offense: 115th/Pass offense: 28th)
Defense (2011 ranks): 4-2-5 (Total defense: 92nd/Rush defense: 85th/Pass defense: 84th).
2011 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 37th/Kickoff returns – 84th/Punt returns – 51st/Punt return yardage defense – 51st/Kick return yardage defense – 3rd.
2011 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 108th/Fewest penalties – 16th/First downs – 73rd/First downs allowed – 63rd/Third down efficiency – 76th/Red zone efficiency – 107th/Red zone defense – 100th/Time of possession – 33rd.
Outgoing starters: 7
2012 Starters (2011 stats)
Returning Offense (7)
QB: Sean Renfree (Senior, 2,891 passing yards/65% cmp/14 TD-11 INT)
RB: RB Desmond Scott (Senior, 367 rushing yards/2 TD)
WR: Conner Vernon (Senior, 956 rec. yards/6 TD)
O-line: LG Dave Harding (Junior, 6-4 290/14 career starts), C Brian Moore (Senior, 6-2 285/27 career starts), RG Laken Tomlinson (Sophomore, 6-3 315/12 career starts), RT Perry Simmons (Junior, 6-5 305/24 career starts)
New Projected Starters (4)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Sophomore, 163 rec. yards/1 TD); Nick Hill (Redshirt freshman, 6-2 215)
TE: David Reeves (Redshirt freshman)
O-line: LT Takoby Cofield (Sophomore, 6-4 310/2 career starts)
Outlook: It’s now or never for senior Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree, who has shown glimpses of being a top-QB going into his third year as a starter (3,461 passing yards as a sophomore/65% cmp as a junior), and also struggled with scores to turnovers (18 TD-19 INT in ’10; 14 TD-11 INT in ’11).
He is protected by four returning starters on the o-line – one in center Brian Moore with 27 career starts, but who also dealt with nagging injuries last season.
At receiver, two-time All-ACC receiver Conner Vernon headlines the group (956 rec. yards/6 TD), but the concerns are more outside of football at this position with sophomore Blair Holliday recovering from terrible jet-ski injuries that left him in critical condition. Holliday’s health is “improving” according to reports (he was a projected new starter – but obviously that’s least of concerns now for him and Duke).
Duke could feature a three-headed monster at running back with Desmond Scott (over 1,000 career rushing yards), Juwan Thompson (457 rushing yards/7 TD last season) and Josh Snead (4.9 yards per carry as a frosh – redshirted last season due to injury).
Returning Defense (6)
D-line: DE Justin Foxx (Junior, 2 sacks/4.5 TFL/30 tackles); DT Sydney Sarmiento (Junior, 32 tackles/1.5 TFL); DE Kenny Anunike (Senior, 4 sacks/5 TFL/13 tackles)
LB: MLB Austin Gamble (Senior, 43 tackles/5.5 TFL)/Kyler Brown (Redshirt freshman)
DB: CB Ross Cockrell (Junior, 9 PBUs/1 INT/56 tackles); FS Walt Canty (Senior, 87 tackles/5 PBUs/4 TFL)
New Projected Starters (5)
D-line: NG Jamal Bruce (Sophomore)
LB: WLB David Helton (Sophomore, 25 tackles)
DEVIL: Brandon Braxton (Junior, converted WR)
DB: CB Lee Butler (Senior, 17 career starts/medical redshirt last year); SS Jordan Byas (Senior, 40 tackles)
Outlook: The Blue Devils got a boost when senior defensive end Kenny Anunike’s medical redshirt was granted (knee), after he got out to a quick start last season with four sacks in September. He is joined by two more returning starters in DE Justin Foxx and DT Sydney Sarmiento.
A senior (Austin Gamble) and redshirt freshman (Kyler Brown) are fighting for a starting spot in the middle of the 4-2-5 scheme. Brown, the younger brother of second-leading returning tackler, Kelby (65), had a pick-six in the Duke spring game. His older brother could miss this season after a second knee injury in two years.
Moving from one side of the ball to the other is Brandon Braxton in a hybrid LB/DB “Devil” spot, after a 40-reception 2011 season at receiver. The Blue Devil cornerback starters have 40 starts between them (Lee Butler and Ross Cockrell), while free safety Walt Canty is Duke’s leading returning tackler (87).
New Kicker/Punter (2)
P: Will Monday (Redshirt freshman)/
PK: Will Monday/Ross Martin (Freshman)
Outlook: Duke replaces two seniors likely with two freshman. Ranked the No. 1 punter prospect by Scout, redshirt frosh Will Monday is listed atop the depth chart at both spots, but true freshman Ross Martin, a first-team high school All-American, is expected to compete for placekicker in fall camp.
Notable Backups (2011 stats)
RB: Juwan Thompson (Junior, 457 rushing yards/7 TD)
LB: Kelby Brown (Junior, 65 tackles/knee injury pre-spring this year could hold him out this season)
ACC Position Rankings
Clemson/Duke recent history: The Blue Devils and Tigers haven’t played a home-and-home series since 2008, where C.J. Spiller accounted for 201 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in a 31-7 Clemson win in Death Valley.
On the Tigers’ last trip to Durham, Duke scored first and Clemson scored 37 unanswered points after that, winning 47-10. James Davis rushed 118 yards and a touchdown.
Trends: Duke is 8-20 at home under Cutcliffe and 3-13 against ACC opponents, but five of the last seven losses by a touchdown or less. What’s less promising for the Blue Devils is their November record under Cutcliffe: 1-16. Clemson is 4-6 on November road trips under Swinney (3-2 as the favored team).
2011 Duke Schedule
Sept. 3 RICHMOND – L 23-21
Sept. 10 STANFORD – L 44-14
Sept. 17 at Boston College – W 20-19
Sept. 24 TULANE – W 48-27
Oct. 1 at FIU – W 31-27
Oct. 15 FSU – L 41-16
Oct. 22 WAKE FOREST – L 24-23
Oct. 29 VIRGINIA TECH – L 14-10
Nov. 5 at Miami – L 49-14
Nov. 12 at Virginia – L 31-21
Nov. 19 GEORGIA TECH – L 38-31
Nov. 26 at UNC – L 37-21