CARY, N.C. — Duke Coach David Cutcliffe confirmed Monday that quarterback Thomas Sirk’s rehab is far enough ahead of schedule the Blue Devils are planning as if he will start the season opener.
Last week Duke turned a routine media release into surprising news when Sirk was named as one of two Blue Devils, along with safety DeVon Edwards, to attend ACC media days Thursday and Friday in Charlotte. But without a comment from Cutcliffe, it remained only the strongest suggestion yet from earlier hints that Sirk’s recovery from a torn Achilles’ tendon in February has happened faster than expected.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but it surprises me,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s an incredibly hard worker and great athlete. Every day so far, knock on wood, it is going in the right direction.”
This time of summer, coaches are emerging from their late spring/early summer seclusions with the start of conference media days. In the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area known locally as the Triangle, college football fans got a head start with the annual Pigskin Preview sponsored by the National Football Foundation’s Bill Dooley Chapter.
Cutcliffe appeared before 1,000 fans at the Embassy Suites with North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, N.C. State’s Dave Doeren, East Carolina’s Scottie Montgomery and N.C. Central’s Jerry Mack.
“I watched some tape of his rehab yesterday,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s doing football movements in the training room.”
Sirk, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Glen St. Mary, Fla., was a first-year starter as a junior last season who saw spot duty as a sophomore, primarily in running situations near the goal line.
In 2015, he threw for 2,625 yards (251 of 427, 58.8 percent), 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ran 163 times for 803 yards (4.9) and eight touchdowns for 3,428 total yards.
Sirk missed spring football, but he was a presence helping backup Parker Boehme as he took most of the No. 1 snaps preparing for his junior year.
“I feel good about our quarterback position as I ever have because of the young men we have behind them,” Cutcliffe said. “We feel good about their knowledge and ability. I’m going into this planning on Thomas Sirk being ready to go.”
Boehme (6-foot-2, 220) started one game a year ago in a 31-13 loss at home to Pitt when Sirk was injured. He was 23-of-42 for 248 yards with a TD and an interception and ran 11 times for 80 yards and a TD.
Two redshirt freshmen who saw extra work in spring drills without Sirk’s availability were Daniel Jones (6-foot-5, 210) and Quinton Harris (6-foot-1, 190). Sophomore Nicodem Pierre, who was switched from quarterback to running back last season due to injuries at the start of fall camp, has remained at running back.
The Blue Devils, 8-5 a year ago, open their season against North Carolina Central on Sept. 3 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Duke has been picked at the bottom of the ACC Coastal with Virginia as Cutcliffe enters his ninth season of turning around the program, but the doubt surrounding Sirk’s injury is one reason for the lowered expectations.
“We’re going to be an offense that can run and throw it,” Cutcliffe said. “This will be the most balanced Duke offense we’ve had. We can really run in general and run on defense. We have new specialists to break in at place-kicker, punter and kickoff man, but if we accomplish what I think we can this can be an exciting team.”