Boone, Connette to split QB duties; star CB Cockrell to return
David Cutcliffe isn’t saying Duke has two starting quarterbacks.
What the Duke coach is saying is that whether Anthony Boone or Brandon Connette starts against Miami Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) doesn’t really matter.
Both will play major roles in Duke’s game plan as the Blue Devils shoot for their first six-game winning streak since 1994.
“I haven’t made any final decisions,” Cutcliffe said Thursday. “But they are both going to definitely play. Don’t read into whoever starts being a significant decision. It’s situational in that regard, so that is why we haven’t made any final decision. I’m still looking at what’s the best opportunity for us to win.”
Duke (7-2, 3-2 in ACC) has won all seven of the games Boone, a redshirt junior, has started in his career. That includes six wins this season.
But he hasn’t played his best over Duke’s last two games, a 13-10 win at Virginia Tech on Oct. 26 and last Saturday’s 38-20 win over N.C. State.
Boone has thrown seven interceptions over those two games. That caused Cutcliffe to turn to Connette, who started three games earlier this season when Boone was out with a fractured collarbone.
Connette has completed 83 of 131 passes (63.4 percent) this season with six interceptions and 12 touchdown passes. He’s thrown for 1,128 yards.
Boone has completed 99 of 159 passes (62.3 percent) with nine interceptions and five touchdown passes. He’s thrown for 1,061 yards.
Connette has rushed for eight touchdowns this season, including a 5-yard run against N.C. State with 3:31 left in the fourth quarter that gave Duke the lead for good.
As Cutcliffe is fond of saying, the most important thing to occur at the end of an offensive play is that Duke has retained possession of the ball. Though winning, Duke hasn’t been as successful in that department lately.
Aiming to fix that, Cutcliffe has had Duke’s first-string offense face off against the first-string defense this week.
“We’ve done a lot of work the last few days going good against good, our best against best,” Cutcliffe said. “So I think that is the fastest way to get you better quickly. Hopefully that’s occurred.”
Defensively, three players who had been out of practice were involved in those intense workouts this week.
Ross Cockrell, an all-ACC cornerback last season, missed the second half of the Virginia Tech game and the entire N.C. State game with an ankle injury. But Cutcliffe said Cockrell was back at practice and he is listed as probable to play against Miami on Duke’s injury report, which was released Thursday.
Reserve safety Dwayne Norman and reserve defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondjio are also listed as probable after missing the N.C. State game.
Duke will not have reserve defensive end Jonathan Woodruff, who has been ruled out with an arm injury.