Linebacker Joe Giles-Harris said he was shocked to learn Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk would be transferring to finish his sixth year of eligibility.
The school announced Sirk’s decision Monday.
Though the two didn’t play on the same side of the ball, Giles-Harris, a redshirt sophomore linebacker, recognized Sirk’s leadership.
“You can be in the training room getting ice and he’s talking to you about something related to the game, so it’s a big loss for us,” said Giles-Harris, Duke’s All-ACC linebacker. “He’s been here since I’ve been here. He’s one of the most vocal leaders on the team.”
But Giles-Harris said Wednesday that it’s time for new Blue Devils leaders.
He is coming off his first full season on the field, so he’s comfortable being more vocal.
Returning starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who set almost two dozen Duke rookie records, will also tackle some of the leadership responsibilities as the Blue Devils welcome 22 new signees.
Jones, a redshirt freshman, said he and Sirk, who was instrumental in his development while he sat out injured last year, discussed the decision before it was announced.
“I appreciate the fact he feels like he can tell me and we can talk about it as friends,” said Jones, who coach David Cutcliffe declared the returning starting quarterback in November after Sirk was granted his sixth year of eligibility. Sirk suffered a season-ending left Achilles tendon tear on Aug. 25 in practice.
Jones threw for 2,836 yards with a completion percentage of 62.8, two of 22 freshman records he set. He set an additional overall record for 20-plus yards touchdown passes in a game with three against Notre Dame on Sept. 24; that was not a rookie record.
“The team will definitely miss his leadership,” Jones said of Sirk. “We’ll step up and we’ll have leaders take on that role.”
Sirk isn’t the only sudden departure from the Duke program this offseason.
Sophomore defensive linemen Brandon Royce and Marquies Price were dismissed on Feb. 21 for failing to meet team standards. Royce was a reserve last season, and Price started in 11 games, recording 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and six quarterback hurries.
Giles-Harris feels Duke has so far responded well to the changes.
“It’s never easy to lose two guys like that, just spur of the moment. That’s never a good thing,” he said.
The Blue Devils finished 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the ACC last season, ending a streak of bowl game appearances at four. It was Duke’s fewest number of wins in the Cutcliffe era since 2011.
“It wasn’t a lot of fun to sit at home and watch all those bowl games,” Jones said. “We’re excited to get out here and get back to work and play football again.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan