DURHAM, N.C. – Daniel Jones met with the media for the first time as Duke’s new starting quarterback on Tuesday afternoon at the Brooks Building. He’s not on the scout team anymore.
The redshirt freshman has been thrust into the starting role for the season opener against North Carolina Central Saturday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. He had been competing for the No. 2 spot until Aug. 25, when returning starter Thomas Sirk re-injured his Achilles’ tendon to end his season.
This was the first time Jones dealt with such a media convergence, even as a star leading Charlotte Latin to back-to-back state title games in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association.
Jones quietly leaned back in a locker as reporters formed a deep semi-circle around him. His quiet voice revealed he’s not ready to command the media huddle – he was polite and patient without deflecting questions in the manner that veteran quarterbacks learn — but all that counts at this point is he speaks up in the on-field huddle.
“Daniel is relatively quiet, but I’ve seen that change,” said Duke head coach and quarterback guru David Cutcliffe. “I’ve seen the players embrace his ability; he’s more comfortable in that role.
“It’s a misnomer you have to be the guy in charge at quarterback. You just have to be more committed to do your job than anyone else. That’s the role a quarterback has to take. He’s assuming that role rather easily.”
In other words, all Duke is asking of the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Jones is to let his actions do the talking. He is aided by having taken more snaps with the first unit last spring … and in fall camp than would normally be the case.
Sirk missed all of spring drills from the original Achilles injury suffered Feb. 9 in off-season workouts. In the fall, Cutcliffe and the medical staff were careful not to overwork Sirk. Thus, Jones and last year’s backup, Parker Boehme, gained more practice snaps.
“Reps and seeing the defense are a huge part of playing quarterback,” Jones said. “You need to play the game to get better. This was huge for me this cape getting a lot of reps and learning more intricate parts of the offense that I didn’t have much experience with last spring and fall.”
It also meant more time work with the running backs and receivers. Duke surrounds Jones with experience and talent at the skill positions, although experience drops off among the starters.
Senior Jela Duncan and junior Shaun Wilson are equal threats running and catching the ball out of the backfield. Senior Anthony Nash and sophomore T.J. Rahming are back as starting wide receivers, and sophomore Johnathan Lloyd has stepped into the slot role after a switch from cornerback. Erich Schneider (6-7, 240) is a big target at tight end; the Blue Devils hope to utilize him more this year.
Boehme (6-2, 220), a junior who was last year’s backup to Sirk, has one start under his belt, but Cutcliffe said Jones earned the starting nod in fall camp. He hasn’t been unhappy with Boehme’s work; he’s been pleased by the potential of Jones.
“There reaches a time when it’s just productivity, which goes into everything you do,” Cutcliffe said. “It is accuracy, game management – all the different abilities a quarterback has to take into a game and be successful to inch ahead.”
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