Connette emerges as Duke's jack of all trades
DURHAM, N.C. (AP)
The most intriguing player on Duke's roster isn't listed on the two-deep.
That's because the coaches can't figure out where to put Brandon Connette.
The redshirt sophomore does a little bit of everything for the Blue Devils (1-0).
He's a backup quarterback who runs short-yardage plays out of the wildcat formation. He lines up at tight end. And wide receiver. And running back. And plays on a couple of special teams.
''I was looking on the depth chart, and nowhere to be found,'' Connette said with a laugh. ''I'm just filling in, kind of the filler position, wherever (offensive coordinator Kurt) Roper wants to put me.''
Connette certainly played a big part in Duke's season-opening victory over Florida International last week, throwing for one touchdown and running for another, and the native Californian's uncommon versatility could come in handy this week at No. 25 Stanford (1-0).
Coach David Cutcliffe hinted that he might have some trickery in store for the Cardinal.
Connette was at the center of one gadget play last week, lining up at receiver but misfiring on a deep pass for wideout Jamison Crowder. The Blue Devils have a package in which starting quarterback Sean Renfree, backup Anthony Boone and Connette are on the field at the same time.
''We've got more than what we've used,'' Cutcliffe said. ''We've got where all three of them can be out there and some interesting things, but you can't put everything in a game plan. ... There's a lot of little things that (Connette) can bring to the table that we're going to use, and I think Anthony can get a little flavor of that, too. Anthony and Brandon in the game at the same time.
''They both can do the same things. Kind of, who's going to do what?''
Connette has been the Blue Devils' short-yardage specialist in past seasons, taking over for Renfree in the red zone and running the wildcat package. He has 10 career touchdown runs and last week's TD toss to David Reeves was his first.
The plan this year always was to make better use of Connette's versatility - he took handoffs at running back and lined up all over the place during the spring - but a run of injuries at key spots has made his versatility even more indispensable. Tight end Braxton Deaver fractured his left kneecap in July, and receiver Blair Holliday suffered severe head injuries in a watercraft accident on July 4.
Connette has been tops on list of replacements at each of those spots, and that makes for some hectic practices.
He says he's ''really running around all over the place,'' working with the tight ends during one 5-minute period before joining the quarterbacks or the running backs for another session.
''That just shows how athletic he is, and versatile,'' Crowder said. ''It's just great to have playmakers on the team, someone that you can always rely on.''
All that extra work will be worth it, of course, if he can give the Blue Devils their first road victory over a ranked team since 1971 - also a win at Stanford.
This one has some special meaning for Connette, who separated his shoulder in last year's 44-14 loss to Stanford and was lost for the season. His brother Simon is a freshman safety at San Jose State, which gave the Cardinal fits last week before losing 20-17.
''Should've had `em,'' Brandon Connette said of his brother's team.
It sure sounds like Stanford is ready for him. The Cardinal dealt with an effective wildcat quarterback last week in San Jose State's Blake Jurich, and they figure that experience has them prepared for Connette, cornerback Usua Amanam said.
''If anything I think it prepared us a little more. I guess you could say we got the hiccups out of the way last week,'' Amanam said. ''I think this is a better wildcat quarterback, but we'll see come game time if we learned anything from the San Jose State game. I think we have.''
AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Stanford, Calif., contributed to this report.