by Mike Potter
David Cutcliffe says his Duke football team was pretty good last season.
But now, the second-year head coach says, the Blue Devils need to learn how to win.
They'll begin practice Thursday evening at Wallace Wade Stadium, focused on a challenging season opener at home on Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. against defending NCAA Division I (Championship Subdivision) national champion Richmond.
Twelve starters return from last season's team that finished 4-8, matching the Blue Devils' combined win total for the previous four seasons.
Duke drew over 30,000 fans to Wade Stadium four times, the first time that had happened in the school's long football history.
"Last year we were a good football team with a bad record," Cutcliffe was quoted as saying in a press release this afternoon. "I'm certainly anxious to see how we respond this season."
Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who was an All-ACC pick last season and has thrown for 6,735 career yards, said he's optimistic things are going to be better this season - but with a warning.
"We've had a productive summer with our weight room work and conditioning exercises, but now it is time to focus on preseason camp," Lewis said. "This team has a lot to prove. We haven't accomplished anything yet. We have goals, but if we don't take care of the little things over the next couple of weeks, it won't matter."
Duke's leading rushers for the past three seasons return in Jay Hollingsworth who was last year's top carrier, and Re'quan Boyette, who sat out last season with an injury after leading Duke on the ground in both 2006 and 2007. Sophomore receivers Johnny Williams and Donovan Warner are back after combining for 51 catches last season, and Kyle Hill and Bryan Morgan anchor the offensive line.
Redshirt senior Vince Oghobaase, a preseason All-ACC selection at tackle, and senior linebacker Vincent Rey lead the defense. Safety Catron Gainey, Ayanga Okpokowuruk and cornerback Leon Wright are also back on the starting defensive unit.