Duke

Duke coach David Cutcliffe 'hopeful' quarterback Thomas Sirk can be ready for the opener

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) looks for a first down as Georgia Tech linebacker P.J. Davis (40) tries to pull him down during Duke’s 34-20 victory Saturday, September 26, 2015 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.
Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) looks for a first down as Georgia Tech linebacker P.J. Davis (40) tries to pull him down during Duke’s 34-20 victory Saturday, September 26, 2015 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham. cliddy@newsobserver.com

When Duke starting quarterback Thomas Sirk ruptured his left Achilles tendon on Feb. 9 – the second Achilles rupture of his career – his 2016 season was thrown into doubt. But just a few months later, coach David Cutcliffe said he is “hopeful” that Sirk can be ready by the start of the season in September.

“I’m hopeful that we have a shot,” Cutcliffe said at the ACC meetings in Amelia Island, Fla. “That’s where we are.”

Cutcliffe expects to have a better handle of Sirk’s readiness in mid-July.

“He has done amazingly well,” Cutcliffe said of Sirk’s rehab. “Now you reach a point where he is still well ahead, way beyond what he was the last time. Now when we get to the next step – can you run full speed? And after he can run full speed, can he change direction, which you have to do, particularly with him. He rushed for over 800 yards, so he is a runner. We’ll get to that point. We’ll know something by July.”

To that end, Sirk was listed as Duke’s starting quarterback on the post-spring depth chart. When Sirk suffered his first Achilles rupture, this one in his right leg, in April 2013, he suffered setbacks during his recovery, straining another muscle in his calf six months later, in October. He still wasn’t 100 percent during 2014 spring practice, but he did play in the spring game that year.

Should Sirk be ready for the opener, that would put him at just under seven months post-surgery. The Blue Devils begin the season Sept. 3 against FCS opponent N.C. Central. Week two (Sept. 10) features the beginning of ACC play with Wake Forest.

Here are some other observations from Duke’s post-spring practice depth chart:

▪ DeVon Edwards is a starter at cornerback.

Edwards has primarily played safety during his Duke career, but the coaching staff decided corner was a more natural fit (and if Edwards has an NFL future, it’s as a corner). He was moved there prior to Duke’s bowl practices, and he both flashed his potential and showed his rust in Duke’s 44-41 overtime victory against Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl in December.

Edwards, who will be a redshirt senior next season, recorded two nice pass break-ups, including one that saved a touchdown, but he was also whistled for two pass interference penalties and gave up a 55-yard completion.

With Edwards and three-year starter Breon Borders atop the depth chart at corner, rising redshirt junior Bryon Fields – who started as a sophomore before missing last season with a torn right ACL – is listed as Borders’ backup.

▪ Many question marks at wide receiver.

On the depth chart, “OR” essentially functions as a question mark. There are three potential starters listed at just one of the three receiver spots: redshirt junior Quay Chambers, senior Ryan Smith and redshirt freshman Keyston Fuller. The first two are veterans who have yet to make an impact during their careers. Chambers has zero career catches; Smith as nine. Fuller is a converted defensive back, a move made last year during his redshirt season.

I wouldn’t expect any of those three to actually hold down that spot, though: four-star receiver Scott Bracey, an incoming freshman, will likely make an instant impact this fall.

And sometimes depth charts are more motivational than informational. Sophomore T.J. Rahming is a returning starter, but he is listed behind redshirt sophomore Chris Taylor on the depth chart.

Rahming is probably the most talented receiver on the depth chart, but he has needed to be pushed by the coaches to develop the type of work habits they want to see. Refusing to list him as a starter at this point is likely another instance of that.

▪ Speaking of depth chart listings with potentially ulterior motives, by all accounts, Tennessee transfer Daniel Helm, a redshirt sophomore, is the most talented tight end on the roster. But he is listed as a backup to Erich Schneider, a redshirt senior who has been talked about as a potential major contributor for years without actually fulfilling that promise.

▪ Walk-on senior kicker Danny Stirt is another placeholder, as scholarship freshman A.J. Reed will arrive on campus later this summer.

This depth chart should hold until Duke opens camp in August. But it’s really all speculative until the Blue Devils take the field against N.C. Central – maybe with Sirk, maybe without him – in September.

Staff writer Andrew Carter contributed reporting

Laura Keeley: 919-829-4556, @laurakeeley

Duke’s depth chart

Offense

QB 1 Thomas Sirk 6-4, 220, R-Sr.

12 Parker Boehme 6-2, 220, R-Jr.

RB 25 Jela Duncan 5-10, 215, R-Sr.

OR 29 Shaun Wilson 5-9, 180, Jr.

WR 83 Anthony Nash 6-5, 200, R-Sr.

84 Trevon Lee 6-1, 185, R-So.

WR 19 Quay Chambers 6-3, 220, R-Jr.

OR 7 Keyston Fuller 6-0, 180, R-Fr.

OR 10 Ryan Smith 5-7, 170, Sr.

WR 82 Chris Taylor 6-1, 180, R-So.

3 T.J. Rahming 5-10, 165, So.

TE 88 Erich Schneider 6-7, 240, R-Sr.

80 Daniel Helm 6-4, 240, R-So.

or 81 Davis Koppenhaver 6-4, 230, R-So.

LT 76 Gabe Brandner 6-6, 285, R-Jr.

70 Christian Harris 6-6, 295, R-So.

LG 69 Zach Baker 6-4, 295, R-Fr.

OR 78 Sterling Korona 6-7, 290, R-Jr.

C 50 Austin Davis 6-4, 290, R-Jr.

OR 63 Zach Harmon 6-3, 285, R-So.

RG 79 Tanner Stone 6-6, 300, R-Sr.

74 Trip McNeill 6-5, 300, R-So.

RT 71 Casey Blaser 6-5, 285, R-Sr.

73 Reno Rosene 6-7, 325, R-Fr.

Defense

DE 49 Danny Doyle 6-1, 215, Jr.

51 Dominic McDonald 6-2, 240, R-Jr.

DT 93 A.J. Wolf 6-4, 280, R-Sr.

97 Quaven Ferguson 6-2, 305, R-So.

DT 92 Edgar Cerenord 6-1, 300, R-So

OR 99 Mike Ramsay 6-2, 295, R-Jr.

55 Brandon Boyce 6-0, 255, So.

DE 91 Marquies Price 6-6, 245, So.

95 Trevon McSwain 6-6, 265, R-Fr.

MLB 34 Ben Humphreys 6-2, 215, So.

24 Zavier Carmichael 6-0, 210, Jr.

WLB 43 Tinashe Bere 6-1, 230, R-So.

44 Joe Giles-Harris 6-2, 220, R-Fr.

CB 27 DeVon Edwards 5-9, 175, R-Sr.

9 Jeremy McDuffi e 5-11, 170, So.

CB 31 Breon Borders 6-0, 180, Sr.

14 Bryon Fields 5-11, 180, R-Jr.

S (B) 33 Deondre Singleton 5-11, 180, Sr.

13 Jordan Hayes 6-0, 180, R-Fr.

S (S) 26 Corbin McCarthy 5-10, 200, R-Sr.

30 Brandon Feamster 6-3, 210, R-Fr.

S (R) 37 Phillip Carter 6-1, 195, R-Jr.

21 Alonzo Saxton II 5-11, 175, Jr.

Special teams

K 43 Danny Stirt 5-10, 180, Sr.

12 Will Kline 6-1, 190, Jr.

KO 43 Danny Stirt 5-10, 180, Sr.

12 Will Kline 6-1, 190, Jr.

P 42 Austin Parker 6-1, 180, R-Fr.

43 Danny Stirt 5-10, 180, Sr.

LS 57 Thomas Hennessy 6-3, 235, R-Sr.

H 42 Austin Parker 6-1, 180, R-Fr.

43 Danny Stirt 5-10, 180, Sr.

KOR 27 DeVon Edwards 5-9, 175, R-Sr.

29 Shaun Wilson 5-9, 180, Jr.

PR 27 DeVon Edwards 5-9, 175, R-Sr.

OR 10 Ryan Smith 5-7, 170, Sr.

OR 29 Shaun Wilson 5-9, 180, Jr.

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