The Vanderbilt defense thinks it knows what to expect against Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
It’s what they don’t know that has them a little on edge.
Lewis, a 6-2, 200-pound junior, is the Blue Devils’ leading passer with 971 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He moves in the pocket well, he puts the ball in his playmakers’ hands,” said Vanderbilt linebacker Patrick Benoit.
But he’s also become more of a threat on the ground, with 40 rushes on the year for 85 yards, including a 16-yard run for a touchdown. It’s that added threat the Commodores have to be prepared for.
“We definitely need to keep an eye out on that,” Benoit said.
Lewis threw for three touchdowns earlier this season against Navy and threw two more in a 31-3 thumping of Virginia. It was the win over the Cavaliers that put the college football world on notice that new Duke coach David Cutcliffe had the Blue Devils heading in the right direction.
“Thaddeus has played a lot of football for Duke,” said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. “He’s very mobile, he has a fine arm. They’ve been running the football with him a little bit. He’s got some great receivers.”
Lewis’s main target is 6-3 senior Eron Riley. Riley, an All-ACC second-team selection last year, had 40 catches for 830 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s well on his way to surpassing those numbers this season with 29 catches for 336 yards and six touchdowns. He’s a player the Vanderbilt coaches know all about. The Commodores recruited Riley heavily when he was a prep star at Windsor Forest in Savannah, Ga.
“He was a guy we really wanted to get,” Johnson said.
And the Commodores hope their familiarity with Cutcliffe will help. The ’Dores saw plenty of his schemes when he was with Ole Miss and Tennessee. When asked about Cutcliffe’s ability to put together offenses, Johnson made it clear he thinks the ex-UT offensive coordinator is one of the best in the business.
“He gives me some sleepless nights,” Johnson said. “David is an exceptional coach — look at his career. I knew he’d bring Duke up almost immediately.”