Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Duke running backs anticipate better season

DURHAM - Duke junior Desmond Scott arrived at fall football camp without the anxiety he carried as a freshman. He felt comfortable with his surroundings, a veteran familiar with process.

"Third year around, you're not new to the program any more," he said. "You're all ready to go."

The Blue Devils hope Scott and the other backs in camp emerge at the start of the season with as much gusto and turnaround the program's inept running game.

The Devils were last in the conference in rushing offense, producing just 110.0 yards per game.

Scott, who on Monday ran with the first team, gained 530 yards last season, averaging 44.2 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.

"I didn't live up to my expectations my freshman and sophomore year," Scott said. "I'm setting the bar high for my junior year."

Duke is primarily a pass-first team, though a strong running game is required to keep a defense off balance. On Monday, the Devils used three running backs and sophomore backup quarterback Brandon Connette to carry the ball during its intrasquad scrimmage.

Thompson, a sophomore, led all rushers with six carries for 47 yards, while Connette rushed eight times for 39 yards.

Scott rushed seven times for 31 yards and sophomore Josh Snead carried seven times for 28 yards.

The Devils started with six running backs in camp, but due to injuries to senior Jay Hollingsworth and junior Greg DeLuca, they are down to four to split drill reps.

During the scrimmage, the Devils used their running backs out of the back field and spread outside. Each had their moments, yet there were few extraordinary rushes, outside of an open field play from quarterback Sean Renfree.

The backs, however, all appear stronger and capable of busting through defensive linemen for large gains.

"We're just proving we can do both," Thompson said. "We can pass and run. Play-fakes. We can do it all. We can go out the backfield and take it all the way. We can pretty much do everything. Everyone is doubting us about our game, but we're improving every year and this year is going to that year."

- Edward G. Robinson III