Cutcliffe to open camp with QBs
By Joedy McCreary
DURHAM ó When Thaddeus Lewis ran into Peyton and Eli Manning on Duke’s campus, the Blue Devils’ quarterback wasn’t going to miss the chance to ask the past two Super Bowl MVPs for some tips on playing for new coach David Cutcliffe.Their advice?
“What Coach Cutcliffe says, do,” Lewis said Sunday.
Good idea, given Cutcliffe’s credibility when it comes to developing quarterbacks.
And while Duke’s roster doesn’t include any Mannings ó “I can’t be another one of them. I’m not quite tall enough,” the 6-foot-2 Lewis joked ó Cutcliffe is ready to hit the practice field today for the start of preseason camp.
That’s when he’ll continue the process with Lewis, Zack Asack and the rest of his first group of Blue Devils QBs.
“I think it’s a pretty significant shock to the quarterbacks here, how much our quarterbacks do,” Cutcliffe said.
Obviously, there’s plenty of work at a program that became a national laughingstock by not reaching a bowl game since 1994, enduring three losing streaks of 15 or more games during the last 13 seasons and losing at least 10 games every year since 2004.
Cutcliffe, who groomed Peyton Manning as an assistant at Tennessee and later was baby brother Eli’s head coach at Mississippi before his 2004 firing, got back into head coaching in December when he was hired to replace Ted Roof.
Cutcliffe spent spring workouts going back to basics with his QBs.
“When you hear about Peyton Manning, a lot of people say that he’s fundamentally sound,” Lewis said. “A lot of people take that for granted. Coach Cutcliffe doesn’t. (Manning) is not just going to go out there and play quarterback and not do the fundamental things right. Some days I went out there, (Cutcliffe) will tell you, ‘You look like a high school quarterback.’ Some days you look like a college quarterback. Just stressing the fundamental part of the game and making you practice just so it can become permanent was a big deal for me.”
The big numbers seemingly have always been there for Lewis, who enters his junior season ranked No. 2 among the ACC’s active players with 4,346 total yards, 4,564 yards passing and 32 touchdown passes.
But that production came in Roof’s hit-or-miss system ó not the carefully choreographed, quarterback-centric scheme that Cutcliffe has spent the past eight months installing and that Lewis now must master.
“In this offense, you have to learn what everybody does,” Lewis said. “Once you learn the concepts of the offense and what’s going on, then you can be successful because there’s a lot going on.”
Indeed, Lewis is learning the position Cutcliffe’s way, and that means spending camp strengthening his grasp on the two-pronged process that made the Mannings finalists for the Heisman Trophy and back-to-back MVPs of the Super Bowl.
“You train your quarterback from the neck up and the neck down,” Cutcliffe said. “The neck down are all the fundamentals that have to become thoughtless ó just rep after rep after rep. The whole time, you’re playing the game from the neck up. There’s a whole game going on ó pre-snap, post-snap, all of the things that happen in 2.8 seconds or 2.5 seconds. We drill that in the meeting room: Think fast, make decisions. It’s all kind of new to (Lewis).
“It’s all about intensity and pressure. So I think he’s having fun with it, but it’s challenging.”