QBs are topic No. 1 as Cutcliffe, Fedora both weigh in
As the most high-profile position on the field, quarterbacks tend to dominate football discussions. That was certainly true during the ACC football coaches’ spring teleconference on Wednesday, as the first questions to both Duke coach David Cutcliffe and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora were about their quarterbacks.
The Blue Devils lost Brandon Connette, who is transferring to be closer to his ailing mother after scoring a school-record 31 career rushing touchdowns. That leaves senior Anthony Boone as the only QB on the Duke roster who has taken a snap in a college game.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels have a quarterback competition between Marquise Williams and redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky that Fedora said is no closer to being resolved after spring practices.
“I don’t have a given date that I’ll make a decision,” Fedora said. “That way, that gives everybody something to talk about all year.”
Cutcliffe said redshirt sophomore Thomas Sirk or redshirt freshman Patrick Boehme could take Connette’s place in situations when Duke is near the end zone. Connette rushed for 14 touchdowns and threw for 13 touchdowns last season while excelling in short-yardage situations.
However, Sirk wasn’t able to get game experience last season after he ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon last spring.
“He’s had a lot of meaningful reps, which has been good in practice,” Cutcliffe said. “Our practices are intense. It’s not game snaps. But he’s gotten better.
”I expect more from him, to be honest with you. That’s been my conversation with him. He’s not a rookie. Whether he wants to look at it or not that way, you’ve got to go play like a veteran. What you have to do is play like you’ve practiced. He’s prepared very well in his times where he’s been healthy enough to practice.”
Cutcliffe said both Sirk and Boehme are similar runners to Connette, whose mother Nancy was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer last December and then suffered a stroke during surgery to remove a tumor.
Connette will be transferring to a school on the West Coast, but hasn’t announced a final destination yet.
“(He’s) going to be greatly missed as a young man and person,” Cutcliffe said. “Certainly as a player. But it was an easy decision to support Brandon in every way we could.”
While Duke’s battle is to back-up Boone, the Tar Heels are looking to replace three-year starter Bryn Renner. Williams started six games last year, going 4-2, but he’s being pushed by Trubisky, Fedora’s first four-star quarterback recruit at UNC.
“I think both guys have competed really well,” Fedora said. “That’s brought out the best in both of them. I think they will continue to do that through the summer and through fall camp. I wish we could have that type of competition at each and every position on our team. When we do have that, then we’re going to be a really good football team.”
The quarterbacks split the repetitions with the starters during spring practices and alternated series with the starters during the spring game. The offense scored 38 points with Trubisky behind center in the spring game compared to 10 for Williams, but Fedora said Wednesday that neither player had separated himself.
“I think there were certain days where we had one that would do better than the other, then the next day the other would compete. That’s the great thing about the competition going on right now,” Fedora said. “I can tell you this at this point, I do feel comfortable we got two guys that we can win with. That’s a great thing right there. As far as when it will be determined, I don’t know. We’ll see how it works out.”
NOTES — UNC’s offense features only one scholarship senior, tight end Jack Tabb, which helps explain why the defense was ahead of the offense this spring. “We’re still a really young football team, but any of our age is on the defense,” Fedora said. “I just think our guys developed a little bit quicker. We have guys that have been playing in the system for three years on that side of the ball and they totally understand what we’re trying to do.” The defense has seven scholarship seniors. … Cutcliffe said junior offensive guard Lucas Patrick will not need surgery after injuring his ankle during Duke’s spring game. “I think that’s probably the best news we’ve had coming out of the spring practice overall,” Cutcliffe said. “Looks like we’ll have all of our people available as we head into the summer.”