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April 13, 2013DURHAM, N.C. -- The Duke football team closed off spring practice with its annual intrasquad scrimmage Saturday with the Blue Team grabbing a 27-12 victory over the White Team.
Like years past, a major story of the day was number of Blue Devils being forced to watch from the sidelines due to injuries or rehabilitation from offseason surgeries.
The team has been riddled with injuries throughout the allotted 15 spring practices, and Saturday's scrimmage at Wallace Wade Stadium showed the impact of that, as a high number of walk-ons and players stuck deep on the depth chart saw plenty of playing time.
Just last Wednesday, the Blue Devils saw second team quarterback Thomas Sirk go down with a ruptured right Achilles tendon, leaving Cutcliffe's team with only one signal caller, Anthony Boone, with significant reps in practice.
Luckily for Duke, freshman Parker Boehme was cleared to practice around the start of the week, giving Duke a scholarship quarterback to play opposite of Boone and the first team during the scrimmage.
In addition to Boehme, Duke was without a handful of other key offensive players including the likes of Brandon Connette, David Harding and Lucas Patrick among others.
Defensively, the numbers were even tougher to deal with for the Blue Devils. A huge portion of the unit was watching from the sidelines, yet Jim Knowles group still managed to force three turnovers in the game.
"I think when we get our people back, realize we had nine people out on defense, seven of those nine are significant in our plans, and I like where we're headed," Cutcliffe said. "We're building some depth. I think we can be a more energetic defense. The big thing is obviously again, focus on why we give up a few big plays. Try to play defense, try to force longer drives. It's going to be interesting film to study. I think we got a lot out of this game."
While one of the main stories is clearly the number of injuries that have kept player out in the spring, there have certainly been some positives take place.
In fact, there are a number of aspects of Saturday's game, as well as the spring in general, that left Cutcliffe excited about. Among the impressive aspects is the continued improvement of Issac Blakeney and Max McCaffrey on the offensive end of the field.
Blakeney pulled in five receptions for 66 yards with a long of 23, while McCaffrey pulled in four passes for 50 yards.
Their presence, along with Jamison Crowder, who pulled in four passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns, has left Cutcliffe believing this team has plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
Add in what Josh Snead (11 carries, 67 yards, 1 TD) and Shaquille Powell (5 carries, 46 yards) were able to do with the ball and he's pleased with the ability his team has to make big plays.
"I think one of the things you see is this team has a lot of playmakers on offense," Cutcliffe noted. "We lost playmakers in Conner (Vernon), Desmond (Scott) and Sean (Renfree), but I think we have got a large number of people that can make plays on offense."
Anthony Boone started off a little rough with two interceptions early in the game, but he responded well.
Overall, the redshirt junior was accurate and showed an ability to make plays with his feet, despite being limited by the green non-contact jersey. Boone connected on 18-of-30 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. He did toss the two interceptions and was sacked twice.
Boehme, despite having practiced in a limited fashion this week after sitting out the rest of the spring, was able to help the White team move the ball effectively. He completed 11-of-13 passes for 128 yards and one score.
Like Boone, he showed an ability to use his feet to make plays, however, he was hit with five sacks over the course of the game. That number, though, could have been cut down as well had Boehme not been in a non-contact green jersey as well.
Defensively, the Duke coaches saw Ohio State transfer Jeremy Cash impress, posting five tackles, one for a loss and picking off one pass.
Dezmond Johnson posted five solo tackles, the most for either team, with one coming in the form of a sack. Kyler Brown added six stops for the white team, while France led the unit with nine tackles.
Britton Grier shined for the Blue team with seven tackles, two sacks and three stops for a loss. Michael Westray and Will Boeckman added five tackles apiece.
"There was some good on both sides of the ball," Cutcliffe noted. "Anthony suffered a couple of turnovers, but the defense is creating a little more. And that's been a little bit of the story this spring. I thought Anthony came back and his consistency was outstanding."