BOONE STEPS UP
Stepping into the position held the last three years by record-setter Sean Renfree, Anthony Boone is charged with doing more than completing passes and piling up rushing yards for Duke.
In frequent meetings since last season ended, Duke coach David Cutcliffe impressed upon Boone the important work he needs to do away from the spotlight.
“We’ve talked on numerous occasions not saying a word about Xs and Os but talking about leadership, about responsibilities, about expectations,” Cutcliffe said Thursday. “I just had one with him again (Wednesday) as we move toward fall camp, toward a game week.”
Renfree, now with the Atlanta Falcons, set Duke’s single-season record for passing accuracy last year by completing 67 percent of his throws (297 of 442). He also excelled off the field, being named to the ACC’s all-Academic team three times while also being nominated for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award for his charitable work in the Durham community.
Around his teammates, Renfree’s words and actions carried extra weight and a healthy dose of respect.
Boone, a redshirt junior this season, was Renfree’s backup the last two seasons. He started once last year, helping Duke beat Virginia 42-17 on Oct. 6 when Renfree was out with a shoulder injury.
But carrying the title of starting quarterback into this season, Boone said earlier this week in Greensboro that he has to remember that he often sets the tone for the team.
“I’m very interactive,” Boone said. “Coach Cut likes to say I have a swagger. I’m very energetic. Get the crowd and my teammates into it. But at the same time I’m going to have an even keel. I’m not going to get too high or too low. It’s going to be a passionate controlled energy.”
The way he reacts to things — both on the field and off — will have a major impact on this year’s Duke team, which strives to reach bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
“A game week is going to be different for Anthony, even though he started against Virginia (last year),” Cutcliffe said Thursday at the annual Pigskin Preview luncheon at Cary’s Embassy Suites hotel. “Everything restarts and it doesn’t restart with the same energy regardless off the results on Saturday. Whether you’ve won by 40 or lost by 2, you’ve got to be on your game Sunday. You’ve got to be better than you were the week before. I’m just trying to help him understand really what a starting quarterback’s role is.”
Part of that role is having an understanding of what his teammates are thinking and feeling. Boone thinks back to last season, when Duke started 6-2 (including a 33-30 win over rival North Carolina) to reach bowl eligibility but lost its final five games to finish 6-7.
“We got the bowl game. We beat Carolina,” Boone said. “It’s kind of like we exhaled instead of pressing forward.”
His job is to help keep the Blue Devils pressing forward this season. The work the team does in the offseason can play a major role in finding in-season success.
Coaches can’t work with players in the offseason. So Boone has been active in getting his teammates together for workouts and practices.
“I’m calling guys on our days off,” Boone said. “Hey, can you come and stand in and catch balls from me? It’s being able to control the whole team. Whenever I call and get the guys together for a practice. Being able to organize it and keep a positive energy.”
While Cutcliffe can’t see Boone in action until practice officially starts on Aug. 5, he’s aware of what’s been happening. Boone includes Cutcliffe on text messages he sends to his teammates.
“I would rate him as an A so far this summer,” Cutcliffe said. “He has really been an active leader, not just by verbiage. He’s been a very physical active leader this summer. He’s cut weight. He’s quicker. He’s done all the things you would like to see.”