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March 31, 2009

Duke TE Huffman ready to make an impact

DURHAM, N.C. - Duke coach David Cutcliffe and his staff run an offense that values the use of tight ends.

Last season, the Blue Devils completed 30 passes to their tight ends, with 14 of those going to junior Brett Huffman, who emerged as a legitimate weapon for Duke down the stretch.

Huffman completed the season with 171 yards and one touchdown on those 14 receptions, but the biggest stat showing up beside his name is the team-high, 12.2 yards-per-catch average.

With a successful year now under his belt, and a full year in Cutcliffe's system, even bigger things are expected of Huffman. Through the first couple of weeks of spring practice, Huffman has done a great job building his on-the-field relationship with senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

"We're always joking with each other - I'm telling him to throw the ball and he is telling me to look for the ball," Huffman said. "We're always cracking on each other pretty good, but when we make those big plays we're the first ones to go celebrate with each other. We have a really good relationship on the field."

The two will obviously reap the benefits from that connection on the field, and with the return of Brandon King, it wouldn't come as a surprise if Duke's tight ends increase the number of receptions, yards and scores from a year ago.

King and Huffman bring entirely different styles to the offense. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Huffman has the ability to stretch the field and put defenses on their heels. King runs shorter routes, keeping his opponents honest, and thus opening the field up for the Duke receivers and Huffman to do damage.

"It's great having King back," Huffman said. "... King is great in the passing and run game. I like to take the deep ball, and he likes the little flat routes and likes them down close to the end zone.

"That's his thing - his little flat routes down in the end zone and scoring quick. I'll take whatever I can get - I love the deep ball, I love whatever Thad wants to throw my way."

So far this spring, Lewis has been finding his tight ends quite often.

"Having a great spring so far I think personally as well as our offense as a unit," Huffman said. "Thad is sticking to his game, and Sean Renfree is making some great passes out there, too. We've been getting some good looks and some balls thrown our way this spring and we've been able to convert on those opportunities and it's been fun."

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