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Duke quarterbacks set tone for football program

By Gene Galin
Posted Monday, August 10, 2009

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Durham, NC - Set to start under center for the fourth straight season, Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis has seen just about everything a defense can throw at him. And all so quickly.

"The past three years have gone by so fast," Lewis said. "And it is up to us seniors to keep making progress this year."

Progress includes helping build the Blue Devil program, and head coach David Cutcliffe knows that quarterbacks are key to that success. In coaching stints at Tennessee, Ole Miss and Duke, the veteran coach has mentored eight total quarterbacks that have either earned all-conference honors or guided their respective school to a bowl game victory. The list includes Andy Kelly (Tennessee), Heath Shuler (Tennessee), Peyton Manning (Tennessee), Tee Martin (Tennessee), Romaro Miller (Ole Miss), Eli Manning (Ole Miss), Erik Ainge (Tennessee) and Lewis.

Already among the school's all-time leaders in several passing statistical categories, Lewis is scheduled to watch from the sideline on occassion as redshirt freshman Sean Renfree takes some snaps in 2009.

"I'd like Sean Renfree to play," Cutcliffe said. "I've told Thad this, so I'm not letting the cat out of the bag. It's a work in progress to build a program, and I don't want to go into next year where we don't have anybody who's never played in a game."

Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has relished his time with Lewis.

"Something that is important to me as a coach is 'Do I like having the quarterbacks in the room with me? Do I enjoy coaching those guys?', and that's definitely true about Thad," Roper said. "He's fun to have in the meeting room, and he's fun to have on the field because he really wants to be good. He has a passion for being a great quarterback and when you have that, you come to work everyday with the right mental makeup and the focus to get better. He's very coachable. He's very determined. He is talented, and it is fun to coach a guy with talent, but I just love having him in my room everyday.

"I expect him to play good football," Roper continued. "I expect him to know what we're doing offensively, manage the game, and, quite honestly, get a bunch more completions than incompletions and more touchdowns than interceptions. I think as a senior his leadership, verbally, has to grow, too, and I think it has."

Renfree, a 2007 PARADE All-America choice as a senior at Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, Ariz., joined the Blue Devil program last summer before redshirting during the 2008 campaign. He experienced a good spring practice session, capped off by a 210-yard, two-touchdown passing effort in the annual Spring Game.

"My expectations of Sean are to prepare like he has to play every snap of every game," Roper said. "I know he's not as far along as Thad, but Sean has to be prepared mentally as much as he can be and be prepared physically to play each game. I'll learn more what he can handle as we get into practice, and obviously try to put him into good situations, but his mental makeup has to be that he's going to play each and every game."

"Like Thad, he's an unbelievable worker, too," Roper noted. "He understands; he picks things up quickly; he's accurate; he's growing. It's good that Thad is the starter and Sean is still getting to grow within the offense and we'll try to get him ready as soon as we can."

The third member of the unit is rookie Sean Schroeder, a left-hander who arrived on the Duke campus in June.

"In recruiting, we basically told (Sean Schroeder) that you can get to the number three guy so he's got to be a little more up-tempo in the learning process because you just don't know what's going to happen," said Roper. "So we've got to get him prepared with very few reps. He has all the things you want in a quarterback, so that gives him a chance to get prepared, but it's obviously a tough road with the amount of reps that he won't be getting."

 
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Duke quarterbacks set tone for football program
Duke quarterbacks during football practice.
photo by Gene Galin
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