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Duke's David Cutcliffe lavishes praise on Tyrod Taylor

For the second straight week, the portion of the ACC media teleconference involving Virginia Tech's upcoming opponent turned into something of a Tyrod Taylor lovefest. A week after Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe said Taylor might be the best quarterback he faced all season -- the Demon Deacons have played against Stanford's Andrew Luck, Florida State's Christian Ponder and Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt among others -- Wednesday it was Duke Coach David Cutcliffe's turn to throw superlatives Taylor's way.

Cutcliffe's praise, though, could be more meaningful, especially with Taylor coming off his best performance of the season through the air last week when he completed 19 of his 27 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns against Wake Forest. Before his days at Duke, Cutcliffe was the coach at Mississippi and the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. He's best known for his work with Peyton and Eli Manning while there.

"I think without question he's the best dual-threat quarterback I've seen," Cutcliffe said of Taylor. "I would go as far to say he's the best in the country. There are guys running well that you see. You see Cam Newton, a youngster at Nevada, certainly Terrelle Pryor. He's as good a runner as any of them, maybe better. I think he may be the fastest. He's a drop back passer. You see very few drop-back passers that are as gifted as he is in the pocket that can do that other [stuff] with their feet."

Taylor has begun climbing the national quarterback charts, especially the last three games in which he's passed for a combined 576 yards, run for 279 yards, scored 10 total touchdowns and thrown just one interception. Taylor's 159.49 passer rating ranks 14th in the nation currently, and he's also tied for 12th in the country averaging 8.9 yards per passing attempt. He also leads the ACC in passing efficiency.

And Saturday could be another repeat of the Wake Forest game, as Duke comes limping into Lane Stadium. Duke's defense is allowing more than 220 passing yards per game and has given up 31 plays that have broken for 20 or more yards this season (The Hokies' defense has actually given up four more than that, which shows you just how susceptible they've been to explosive plays.)

Coach Frank Beamer has spent the week talking up how close the Blue Devils always play Virginia Tech, and has said several times that Duke's defense gave up just 21 points last week in a loss to Miami, despite an offense that had seven turnovers.

But it's hard to ignore those seven turnovers, five of which were interceptions thrown by sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree. Though Duke has the nation's 22nd-best passing attack in terms of yards, averaging more than 270 per game, Renfree now has 10 interceptions in his last three games and 14 for the season. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, haven't defeated a division I-A opponent since a victory over Virginia on October 31, 2009.

"I think he really got outside himself," Cutcliffe said of Renfree. "I think he thought he had to do that. ... He's not a gunslinger. He kept trying to go right back to playing like a gunslinger. Lay one out there, expect a guy to go get it for him, force one in, think I could get it by him. ... He's well aware he let it get the best of him."

Renfree will be welcomed to Blacksburg by a Virginia pass defense that allowed Wake Forest to complete just four passes last week. The Hokies are holding opponents to a completion percentage of 50.8 percent this season, ranking them ninth in the nation in that category.

They are, however, allowing more than 212 yards per game through the air. That, though, is more an indication of the amount of pass-happy offenses Virginia Tech has faced this season.

By Mark Giannotto  | October 21, 2010; 9:29 AM ET
 
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