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Spring Practice Notebook
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 02/25/2011
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Donovan Varner
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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With 146 career receptions resulting in 1,947 yards and 10 touchdowns, rising senior wideout Donovan Varner looks to cap a terrific career in 2011.  Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has noticed a change in the Miami, Fla., native during spring drills.

“He’s a different guy right now and the biggest reason is strength level,” Cutcliffe noted.  “His strength level is going to be directly related to him staying healthy, getting the kind of reps that he needs consistently over a period of time to work with the quarterbacks and get done what he’s got to get done.  He is so much stronger catching the ball in traffic and playing against the tight press coverage.”

Varner enters his final season ranking among Duke’s elite pass catchers.  On the school’s career charts, he ranks seventh in receptions (146), eighth in receiving yards (1,947), tied for third in 100-yard receiving games (7) and tied for 10th in touchdown catches (10).  He is one of just three players in Duke history with multiple seasons of 60 or more receptions, joining 2010 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Clarkston Hines along with Roger Boone. 

Varner, one of 12 players in ACC history with two seasons of 60 or more grabs, could become the first player in ACC history with three seasons of 60-plus catches.

ACC – Two seasons, 60+ pass receptions
Roger Boone, Duke – 62 in 1987; 73 in 1988
Desmond Clark, Wake Forest – 61 in 1996; 72 in 1997
Jerricho Cotchery, N.C. State – 67 in 2002; 86 in 2003
Rich Gunnell, Boston College – 64 in 2007; 60 in 2009
Clarkston Hines, Duke – 68 in 1988; 61 in 1989
Torry Holt, N.C. State – 62 in 1997; 88 in 1998
Aaron Kelly, Clemson – 88 in 2007; 67 in 2008
Billy McMullen, Virginia – 83 in 2001; 69 in 2002
Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina – 74 in 2007; 68 in 2008
Torrey Smith, Maryland – 61 in 2009; 67 in 2010
Donovan Varner, Duke – 65 in 2009; 60 in 2010
Peter Warrick, Florida State – 61 in 1998; 71 in 1999

With his 3,131-yard passing effort in 2010, Sean Renfree became the fifth quarterback under David Cutcliffe to throw for 3,000 or more yards in a single campaign.  Renfree joined Peyton Manning (1996 & 1997 at Tennessee), Eli Manning (2002 & 2003 at Ole Miss), Erik Ainge (2007 at Tennessee) and Thaddeus Lewis (2009 at Duke) as the Cutcliffe pupils to accomplish the feat.  In addition, Renfree became just the fourth Duke signal-caller to eclipse the 3,000-yard barrier, joining Ben Bennett (1982 & 1983), Anthony Dilweg (1988) and Lewis.

“I want him to use all of his tools,” Cutcliffe said about Renfree.  ”He’s certainly very bright.  He’s got an extremely accurate arm.  He’s big, he’s strong, and he sees the field well.  I want him to use his athleticism to his advantage.  I think that’s real important for Sean.”

The 2010 season marked Renfree’s first as Duke’s starter, and the Scottsdale, Ariz., native completed 285-of-464 (.614) pass attempts for 3,131 yards with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while rushing for four additional scores.  He finished with 3,084 yards of total offense, the third-highest single-season total in Duke history, and, in the ACC, ranked first in completions per game (23.75), tied for second in total offensive yards per game (257.0), third in passing yards per game (260.9), tied for sixth in touchdown passes and seventh in passing efficiency (120.73).

On Duke’s single-season charts, Renfree’s totals from last year stand tied for first in most 100-yard passing games (12), tied for second in most 200-yard passing games (9), tied for second for most games with 30 or more pass completions (3), third in most 300-yard passing games, third in passing yards, third in pass completions, third in pass attempts, fifth in pass completion percentage, fifth in total offensive plays (515), tied for fifth for most games with one or more touchdown passes (9), tied for fifth for most games with 20 or more pass completions (7), 10th in pass efficiency rating, 10th in average yards per pass attempt (6.75) and tied for 11th for most touchdown passes.

Within the last few weeks, the Blue Devils have participated in two community outreach projects.  On February 9, rising senior safety Jeffrey Faris spearheaded a group of players to visit the Ronald McDonald House in Durham.  Then, on February 15, head coach David Cutcliffe and more than a dozen players contributed their time to man the phone lines during the annual MIX 101.5 Radiothon that supports the Duke Children’s Hospital.

Former Duke linebacker Billy Granville was recently recognized for his successes off the field, qualifying for the prestigious “Top of the Table” of the Million Dollar Round Table.  This honor places Granville among the top 1,000 of his peers in the global financial services industry.

The Granville Financial Group is a financial services firm which specializes in the design, implementation and servicing of Executive & Director Benefit Plans and Bank/Corporate Owned Life Insurance strategies.

Granville lettered four seasons (1993-94-95-96) as a linebacker at Duke, was an All-ACC pick as a sophomore and served as team captain during his senior season.  He finished his career with 374 tackles – the eighth-best total in school history – and went on to play four seasons with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

In his latest book – BLOOD, SWEAT & CHALK – longtime Sports Illustrated scribe Tim Layden provides a history lesson into the Xs and Os of football by outlining offensive and defensive schemes and their origins. 

Layden spent two days in Durham in the spring of 2008, and his experiences with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and quarterbacks Zack Asack and Thaddeus Lewis are detailed in the book’s Prologue. 

Duke’s 2011 edition of Homecoming will be the weekend of September 23-24-25.  The Blue Devils will host Tulane on the gridiron that Saturday.

Ticket prices for Duke’s five road games have been released: Boston College – $50; Florida International – $21; Miami – $65; Virginia – $45 & North Carolina – $50.  These tickets, along with single-game tickets to Duke’s seven home games, are scheduled to go on sale to the public through the Duke Athletic Ticket Office in August.