Duke redshirt freshman quarterback impresses during fall camp
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones says he had a big growth spurt in high school, growing four inches in his junior year at Charlotte Latin.
Jones now may need another quick growth spurt — as a college quarterback.
Jones, 19, now projects as the Blue Devils’ starting quarterback in Saturday’s opener against N.C. Central. Whatever Duke’s quarterback plans were, they changed recently in practice when Thomas Sirk, a redshirt senior, suffered a partial tear of the left Achilles tendon he ruptured in February.
Sirk, from all indications, had done everything right in his rehab. But the partial tear will require surgery and ended his 2016 season, leaving Jones, Parker Boehme and Quentin Harris to handle the position this year.
Only Boehme, a redshirt junior, has played in a college football game. Jones and Harris, from Wilton, Conn., are redshirt freshmen.
But Jones has spent time running the No. 1 offense in fall camp. In an interview last week, hours before Sirk’s injury, he talked of how much he learned in watching Sirk handle the position in the last year.
“Mainly just watching Thomas, and how he works and how he carries himself every day,” Jones said. “Just watching him day-in and day-out, doing everything he can to get better, has been very helpful. He’s just a very hard worker and very dedicated guy.”
Sirk was a threat running and passing, and the offensive play-calls reflected that versatility. But Jones said Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe and offensive coordinator Zac Roper expected each of the quarterbacks to be able to do the same.
“It’s the same system, so everybody in the quarterback room can do both,” Jones said. “That’s what Coach Cut and Coach Roper want here, the ability to do both. It’s the same system.”
Jones is set to get the first chance to run the offense. If Cutcliffe decides more experience on the field is needed early in the season, he will turn to Boehme.
Boehme had one start last season when Sirk was injured, against Pittsburgh, finishing 23-for-42 passing for 248 yards and running for 80 yards in 11 carries — nearly all on a 77-yard burst. Boehme’s five rushing TDs last season was second only to Sirk’s eight. He has played 190 snaps in 13 games and was the No. 1 quarterback this past spring with Sirk out.
At 6 feet 5 and 210 pounds, Jones has good size and has shown good mobility. The Charlotte native said he grew up watching Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, and it may not be a coincidence that Jones wears No. 17, once Delhomme’s number with the Panthers.
Jones, in talking about his first year at Duke, said, “It has been a growth in all aspects of football and life.”
It should be more of the same his second year.