It’s back! For the third straight year, the N&O will count down the top 10 most important Duke football players for the upcoming season. Most important isn’t necessarily the best, but it’s a combination of individual skill, depth at a position and cruciality to success.
Duke football is currently on an unprecedented run of success, going bowling three straight years and winning 19 games over the past two seasons. And the schedule is favorable again this year, thanks in large part to divisional crossover games with Boston College and Wake Forest.
No. 9: Quarterback Thomas Sirk
Age: Redshirt junior
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Last year’s stats: 10-of-14 (.714) for 67 yards and three touchdowns through the air and 47 rushing attempts for 238 yards (5.06 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns
As head coach David Cutcliffe enters his eighth year at Duke—hard to believe it has been that long—he has less experience at the most important position than he’s ever had in Durham. When Cutcliffe first arrived before the 2008 season, future NFL quarterback Thad Lewis was a rising junior. Then there were three years with future NFL quarterback Sean Renfree. And by the time it was Anthony Boone’s job, he had attempted 148 career passes and seen sporadic game action for two years.
There is no such track record with new starter Thomas Sirk, whose entire college experience is measured in the numbers he put up last year. But even with just those 14 passing attempts, he is still the Blue Devils’ most experienced quarterback—backup Parker Boehme has attempted a grand total of two career passes.
The Blue Devils are not going to ask Sirk to through 50 passes a game. He will have a deep, experienced running back corps that should carry the majority of the offensive load. But still, there will undoubtedly be times that Duke will need Sirk to make a play, whether it’s with his feet or through the air.
Sirk is a big guy— 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. He’s soft spoken, which can be a little jarring, given his stature. All spring he talked about how important the leadership aspect of his job was, so he went to work trying to develop a personal rapport with his fellow offensive players.
The Blue Devils love Sirk’s athleticism—at one point, before the Achilles injury that wiped out his redshirt freshman year, there was the thought that he could play tight end if that would get him on the field faster. And Sirk’s background is more as an athlete than as a quarterback, as he spent just one year in high school as a traditional signal caller.
Cutcliffe, though, is quick to emphasize that Sirk has a strong arm, too, and can make all the throws he needs to make. The general public will see if that is the case come September.