No news is good news from a 70-snap situational scrimmage at Duke Saturday night.
With most key starters playing fewer than 10 snaps or no snaps at all, head coach David Cutcliffe and his staff had an opportunity to evaluate young players that will probably fill up the third and forth strings on the depth chart. So, no, the scrimmage didn’t reveal a ton about the Duke team that will take the field on Sept. 3 at Tulane—starting quarterback Thomas Sirk will not be throwing to walk-ons, as he was toward the end of the scrimmage. But here are a few observations nonetheless:
*Junior wide receiver Johnell Barnes caught five passes for 103 yards. There was a 37-yard strike from Sirk that included a nice beat of cornerback Alonzo Saxton II in single coverage along the left sideline.
*Max McCaffrey caught 4 passes for 42 yards as well. According to Cutcliffe, Barnes and McCaffrey are the clear No. 1 and No. 2 receivers—the spots behind them, including the third starting spot, are still up for grabs.
*New starting mike linebacker Zavier Carmichael hauled in an interception later in the scrimmage, one of three takeaways for the defense (true freshman quaterback Quentin Harris threw a pass that went through redshirt sophomore receiver Quay Chambers’s hands). Freshman cornerback Jeremy McDuffie, who has turned heads in camp, had the other interception, a nice pickoff of backup quarterback Parker Boehme’s first throw of the night. Ryan Smith was the intended receiver, and McDuffie flat beat him to the ball in the air. The third takeaway was a fumble recovery by Carmichael as well.
"I’m always happy when the defense is taking the ball away," said Cutcliffe, who was aware that Duke’s own offense was the victim. "Really, I’m happy. What I will evaluate, and I told our offense this this afternoon, is how many times they are taking care of the ball, even if we don’t turn it over. A lack of taking care of the ball shows up in a lot of other areas other than turnovers. But if your defense isn’t playing to take the ball away, you are not going to create many turnovers. That’s been probably as big of emphasis as we’ve had in camp."
*The final numbers for the two scholarship quarterbacks: Sirk went 13-of-21 for 104 yards, and Boehme was six-of-10 for 90 yards with one touchdown (to tight end Erich Schneider) and one interception.
*Shaq Powell led the run game with 15 yards on four carries. Nico Pierre did take a couple handoffs, but beyond that, there was nothing noteworthy about his performance at his new position.