Commentary

DeCock: Triangle teams suddenly have QB questions

ldecock@newsobserver.comOctober 11, 2013 

It’s funny that in a week when each of the Triangle’s ACC schools could have at least one alumnus starting at quarterback in the NFL, none of the Triangle schools can count on its current starting quarterback.

Bryn Renner didn’t play for North Carolina last week at Virginia Tech; he has a few extra days to let his left foot heal before the Tar Heels host Miami on Thursday. Brandon Mitchell has been out since the third series of N.C. State’s season with a broken foot but could return, in a part-time or full-time role, Saturday against Syracuse. And Anthony Boone is close to returning for Duke from a broken collarbone, but might not be ready to face Navy on Saturday.

That’s a lot of turmoil at one position, and for the first time in a while, some of it looks like it is starting to settle.

If Renner’s healthy, he’s a stone-cold starter, so there isn’t much of a decision there for Larry Fedora. Mitchell said earlier this week he was “50-50,” and Pete Thomas played reasonably well at Wake Forest despite the loss, so there’s less pressure on Dave Doeren to rush Mitchell back into action than there might have been earlier.

“Obviously, having him back helps our depth, but I’m not going to rush it either,” Doeren said. “I think to put him out there too early is not in anyone’s best interest and we have to make sure he is healthy and where he needs to be.”

Interesting deal at Duke

A similar dynamic is in action at Duke, where David Cutcliffe might face the most interesting situation of the three because Brandon Connette has been increasingly effective each week Boone has been out. Going into the week, Boone wasn’t cleared for full contact, but Cutcliffe still described him as “day to day,” leaving the door open for Navy. He’s officially listed as questionable, as is Mitchell.

“As far as making a decision as to what quarterback you go with, normally it’s pretty easy,” Cutcliffe said. “When you have a starter, and he’s ready to go, he just comes back and he’s the starter, is what you do. That’s certainly what my inclination always is. The tribute that’s involved here would be to Brandon Connette and how well he’s performed. He’s consistently gotten better.

“You don’t want to put Anthony in too early, get him hurt. We have the luxury where you don’t have to rush that. But also, I would see Connette continuing in some form of role, like we’ve always done with him here.”

NFL trifecta ... to this

Because Connette has been used in so many different positions at Duke – quarterback, tight end, running back, wide receiver, punt protector, even defense – it’s hard to place him in the lineage of Cutcliffe’s quarterbacks at Duke that goes from Boone to Sean Renfree to Thad Lewis.

Lewis, who is scheduled to start for the Buffalo Bills against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, is the second leg of the trifecta of potential Triangle NFL starters, with T.J. Yates the third. Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week Matt Schaub remains his starter, but it wouldn’t be any shock if Yates, the North Carolina product, gets a shot ahead of the struggling Schaub either this week or down the road.

N.C. State is still the runaway leader, with Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and now Mike Glennon holding down starting jobs in the NFL – ironic, given the Wolfpack was one of only a few teams in the ACC that didn’t know who its starter would be to start the season, and still might not know Saturday.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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