Sports

Yes Duke has NFL prospects. No they won’t skip their bowl game

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones (17) rears back to throw a fourth quarter pass as guard Zach Harmon (63) blocks on the play. Duke defeated UNC 42-35 at Wallace Wade Stadium In Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Jones threw for 361 yards against the Tar Heels.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones (17) rears back to throw a fourth quarter pass as guard Zach Harmon (63) blocks on the play. Duke defeated UNC 42-35 at Wallace Wade Stadium In Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Jones threw for 361 yards against the Tar Heels. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Daniel Jones hasn’t decided if he’ll enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

Two of his Duke teammates, linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys, don’t yet know if they’ll be healthy enough to play in the Independence Bowl against Temple on Dec. 27.

One thing all three know for sure, though, is they won’t join other college players around the country by sitting out their bowl game out of injury risk.

“I don’t think that’s a Duke thing,” Humphreys said Tuesday. “We’re going to play every game that we can. We’re going to do it because we love the guys around us. I don’t think that will happen at Duke.”

A knee injury suffered during an Oct. 20 game with Virginia has nagged Humphreys, a senior, ever since. Giles-Harris, a redshirt junior named first-team, all-ACC for the second season in a row, is dealing with a sprained knee. He hasn’t played since Nov. 3 at Miami.

Both said Tuesday they are recovering and hoping to play in the Independence Bowl.

“Right now my mind is on getting 100 percent healthy and getting really to play against Temple,” Giles-Harris said. “I have no intention of thinking about not playing in a game. You are only given so many games in your career, why skip out on one is my feeling on that.”

Giles-Harris also said he hasn’t thought much about whether or not he’ll enter in the 2019 draft

“I’m just focused on this year and finishing out strong,” he said.

Jones is under the most scrutiny as far as his future plans. Some draft analysts project him as a possible first-round pick.

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Players who are similar draft prospects, like N.C. State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon and South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel to name two, have already announced they will enter the draft and not play in their bowl games.

“I certainly plan on playing and I will play in the bowl game,” Jones said. “I’ve never really considered that as something I’d want to do. We are going to finish this season.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe plans to assist Jones in gathering information from the NFL about his prospects. The coaching staff has been on the road recruiting since Nov. 25, the day after Duke’s regular-season ending 59-7 loss to Wake Forest.

The players are finishing end-of-semester projects and presentations with final exams looming next week.

With all that happening, Jones said he is thinking about the NFL but is not close to a final decision over whether to stay or go.

“I’ve probably started to think about it more than I did before the Wake game,” Jones said. “I still have a whole lot of work to do and thought to do. I’m not anywhere near a decision there. I’m not sure I’ve done all the necessary homework to figured that out. Thought about it more. Not sure how close I am to really making a decision at this point.”

Instead, their football focus is on ending this Duke season positively. Duke (7-5) is on a two-game losing streak, suffering 35-6 loss at No. 2 Clemson prior to the shellacking by Wake.

“I think we certainly were disappointed with the way we played,” Jones said. “There were a lot of things what went wrong that we didn’t do well. This bowl game gives us a chance to correct some of those things and maybe gives us an extra edge to prove that we’re not that team that played a week ago against Wake Forest. We are much better than that. We are looking forward to going out and finishing this season on a better note.”

Unlike Jones, Humphreys and Giles-Harris watched the game from the sidelines nursing injuries rather than playing. Humphreys started but played just a few plays on Wake Forest’s opening drive.

“You learn that if you don’t play four quarters and you don’t come out ready to go, it doesn’t matter who it is,’ Humphreys said. “It’s college football and that will happen. Obviously it was tough to watch being on the sideline. You get beat by anybody if you don’t come to play.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a lack of execution. We were really flat. That will never happen again, hopefully. It was definitely tough to watch.”

Though the coaches have been out of town, the players have been lifting weights and doing other conditioning drills. They’ve had plenty of conversations about what happened against Wake Forest.

“You just remind each other to stay within each other,” Giles-Harris said. “Stay connected because the further you separate and the further you break apart or spread apart that’s when things happen. We have to block out all the other stuff and whatever happened, all the stuff that led up to us having that result. Focusing on working. We trust everybody in our locker room. That’s what you’ve got to do. Do it for your neighbor and do it for your brother. That’s how we’re going to have to play.”

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.
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