Throughout the college football world, there are several coaches that are revered above all others as developers of talent. Names like Saban, Meyer and Harbuagh are usually at the tops of these kinds of lists. However, there are several coaches who have produced an elite amount of talent that are often left out when talking about the top minds of the game.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is among these underrated coaches. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he has developed a reputation as a quarterback guru, who can develop almost anyone into an elite signal caller. Cutcliffe has coached six quarterbacks who have made it to the NFL, including both Manning brothers.
While both Peyton and Eli were top recruits who seemed destined for stardom, he still played a pivotal role in grooming them in the terminology of the pro-style offense which prepared them well for the NFL. Cutcliffe maintained a relationship with Peyton until his retirement as Manning would come down to Durham in the offseason to work out under his old coach’s supervision.
But his most impressive work may have come without the Manning brothers. When Cutcliffe was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, quarterbacks like Tee Martin and Heath Shuler flourished under his tutelage with Shuler ending up in the NFL. He won a National Championship and two SEC titles, the national championship coming without the services of Manning.
Cutcliffe has also turned two quarterbacks who played for him at Duke into NFL prospects. He inherited Thaddeus Lewis when he took the Duke job prior to the 2008 season and turned him into an offensive weapon. Lewis’ completion percentage skyrocketed and the Blue Devils quadrupled their win total from the previous year.
This breakout performance set the stage for Lewis’ senior year where he threw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was named a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award which honors the nation’s top quarterback. This allowed him to pursue an NFL career where he ended up starting six games and is still in the league as a backup quarterback.
Sean Renfree was Lewis’s successor and posted even better statistics with Cutcliffe, throwing for almost 10,000 yards in his career and setting the Blue Devils’ all-time single season completion percentage record. Renfree ended his career either owning or sharing 14 different Duke records and led the Blue Devils to their first bowl game in 17 years.
All of this history means that current Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is in the best possible hands to continue his development. Cutcliffe has already raved about Jones’s potential and the future under center looks bright for the Blue Devils especially since Jones will only be a redshirt sophomore this coming season. Cutcliffe’s next NFL quarterback could already be behind center in Durham.
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