Two weeks before the 2016 football opener, Duke held its annual “Meet the Blue Devils” day Saturday at Pascal Field House.
The longest line — and wait — for the fans was to see Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who patiently signed posters, footballs and helmets, posed for photos and chatted.
“When you get this kind of turnout, it’s pretty special,” Cutcliffe said of the estimated 3,500 who attended. “I’m amazed at the enthusiasm and the energy.”
While Cutcliffe had the biggest line, the most frequently asked question of the day likely was some version of “How you feeling?” and was posed to quarterback Thomas Sirk, a redshirt senior who ruptured his left Achilles tendon in February.
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So how is he feeling now?
“Practice has been great so far,” Sirk said. “I’ve just been out there progressing every day. I’m not doing anything that might risk re-injury, but I feel strong.”
Sirk has not been able to participate in the Blue Devils’ first two scrimmages, leaving some to wonder if he will be ready to play when Duke opens Sept. 3 against N.C. Central.
Sirk, who passed for more than 2,600 yards and rushed for more than 800 last season, said his status might change in the next few practices.
“I’ve been able to do one-on-ones and just timing and routes with the receivers and running backs, but I should get back out there with the team this week,” he said. “I’m basically running full speed, but it’s about not going out there and not trying to push it to the limit and having a setback.”
Asked if he’ll be good to go for the opener, Sirk smiled and said, “It’s day by day to see where I’m at. Hopefully, Sept. 3, I’ll be out there ready to go 100 percent.”
Cutcliffe had quarterback Daniel Jones, a redshirt freshman from Charlotte, running the No. 1 offensive unit in much of Friday’s scrimmage at Wade Stadium. Jones responded with a pair of touchdown passes.
“I thought he handled it well,” Sirk said. “He handled the situations well, and that’s what the coaches are looking for.”
Cutcliffe said after reviewing video of the scrimmage, “I want to see us be more consistent competing and completing passes. We didn’t throw a lot, but I think part of that was ... so many balls were contested by our defense.”
Cutcliffe liked the work of the offensive line, even though the Blue Devils lost offensive tackle Liam Smith, a freshman, to a medial collateral ligament injury.
As for Jones, Cutcliffe said, “He played well. He didn’t miss any assignments mentally. I thought every run decision and the speed he displayed, the gains would have probably been more than we gave him because you’re blowing the whistle fast. He threw the ball where he was supposed to throw the ball a great deal of the time.”
Jim King of Burlington was one of the fans who waited for a moment with Cutcliffe.
“I’m excited,” King said. “I’ve been coming to games for 35 years, and I’ve gone through the good and the bad. It’s nice to see so many people here today. I think we’re all pretty excited about the season and the program.”