Thursday, January 12, 2012

Duke's Vernon to return for senior season

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree can rest easy. His primary receiver Conner Vernon will return for a senior season.

Duke announced on Thursday that Varner, who over the past two seasons has registered 70-plus receptions in each, will return for his final season of eligibility instead of entering his name for the NFL Draft.

“After talking at length with my family and coach (David) Cutcliffe, I have decided to put the aspiration of playing professional football on hold and come back for my senior season,” Vernon said in a statement released by the school. “When I came to Duke, the number one priority was graduating and I’m on track for that. Duke is a special place, and being a part of this football program alongside my teammates is very important to me."

The 6-foot-1, 195 pound receiver has 198 career receptions for 2,675 yards and 13 touchdowns in 35 games. With just two catches, the Miami native will become the seventh player in ACC history to amass 200 career receptions.

He needs 35 catches to become the league's all-time receptions leader and eclipse Clemson's Aaron Kelly who caught 232 passes from 2005-08.

On the ACC's all-time list, Vernon sits eighth in receptions and 15th in receiving yards.

Vernon's decision allows him to keep his current streak alive: He's caught at least one pass in 33 consecutive games – fourth longest streak in school history – and two receptions in 15 straight.

“Conner has had a terrific college career so far, and naturally we are thrilled with his choice to finish his eligibility and graduate from Duke University,” Cutcliffe said in a statement. “I’m confident he will continue to work hard and get better, and professional football will be in his future.”

-- Edward G. Robinson III