Redshirt sophomore Brandon Connette may have one of the most confusing roles in the country, playing as a quarterback, running back, wide receiver and standup tight end. Bizarrely, he is unlisted on offense on the two-deep depth chart.
“I still don’t know [what position I am],” Connette said. “You won’t see me on the depth chart but you’ll see me on the field.”
In past years, Connette was used almost exclusively as a running quarterback in short-yardage or red zone situations and as a backup to redshirt senior starter Sean Renfree. This year, for the first time, Connette and Renfree have shared the field.
Although the plays Connette ran against Florida International in his quarterback role were mostly similar to the ones he ran last year—lots of zone read runs and a play action pass after the run had been established—he generally lined up behind Renfree in a variation of a two-back pistol formation. On those calls against the Golden Panthers, Renfree went in motion, allowing the center to snap directly to Connette.
Renfree is unlikely to be of much use as a receiver—his limited speed, inexperience running routes and high potential for injury as a receiver all prevent him from simply switching positions with Connette on those plays.
But it is still a huge step up from last year, when Renfree would leave the field upon Connette’s entrance. His absence from the huddle gave teams the ability to call plays that keyed in on the run. By contrast, having Renfree on the field forces opposing defenses to use their standard personnel and call plays that will be effective against both the run and the pass. Likewise, having Connette on the field as a back or receiver forces teams to respect every possibility.
“It puts a tremendous strain on them,” Connette said. “It doesn’t even have to be a trick play. But they’re taking a half a second at the snap making sure it’s not a trick play, and that hesitation allows someone else to make a big play, break free or get an edge on them on a block.”
Soon, opposing teams will have even more to think about. Cutcliffe has already promised that Duke fans have seen just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plays involving Connette. At Tuesday’s weekly press conference, he even mentioned that Connette might share the field with redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Boone, who took over Connette’s role as a running quarterback when Connette went down with an injury.