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Duke Spring Football Notebook: Blue Devils Begin
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 03/01/2019
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DURHAM, N.C. – Duke opened spring football practice period Friday with a two-hour session inside Pascal Field House. 

The Blue Devils finished 8-5 in 2018 and captured the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl with a 56-27 victory against Temple on December 27 for the program’s third consecutive bowl triumph. The Blue Devils will return to the practice field for their second spring workout on Saturday morning.

Following Duke’s first spring practice, head coach David Cutcliffe gave his assessment of the workout.

“This was a good start,” Cutcliffe said. “We got a lot of work in. There is a lot of competition at a lot of positions. I liked our first day; I just hope I like our second day. That’s the key to these teams – if they can continue to be consistent. As you look at us, we have to figure out who our best 11 on either side of the ball are. There’s competition. That’s a good thing. We are not like a drafting system. We recruit and develop. With that, you have to adjust scheme with personnel. We’re looking at every aspect of that. This spring, we have to figure out what we’re going to do best on offense and defense.” 

With three-year starter Daniel Jones forgoing his final season of collegiate eligibility to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, Duke will see a new face behind center this fall. The Blue Devils return three quarterbacks who played in a game last fall with rising redshirt senior Quentin Harris, redshirt sophomore Chris Katrenick and redshirt freshman Gunnar Holmberg.

“Our quarterbacks got off to solid start, but we have a lot of work to do to continue to try and figure out who we are,” Cutcliffe said. “I’ve been fortunate in my career to have to play offense a year after losing a first-round draft choice quarterback. We will adjust to what level and direction we need. 

Last fall, Harris played in 12 games, only missing the Georgia Tech contest. He completed 34-of-68 (.500) passes for 437 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed 46 times for 195 yards (4.24) and five scores. As Jones missed two contests with a fractured collarbone, Harris led Duke to victories against Baylor and N.C. Central.

“Quentin, today, I thought was comfortable with running the offense,” Cutcliffe said. “He was telling other players what to do and how to do it and coaching younger players. You rarely, after a three-year starter leaves, have someone who can do that. Quentin has a lot of confidence. He’s an extremely bright young man. He played today like a starter, because he has started games. I thought he took a great approach today. I think part of that is that he had to play when it mattered.”

“Quentin played a little bit last year so it wasn’t too different,” rising junior running back Deon Jackson said of Harris at quarterback today. “Everybody misses Daniel. He was a great quarterback and leader. But we love Q. We will support him in everything. We see the things he has done in practice and in games in the past.”

Helping Duke’s offense in 2019 will be the return of Jackson and redshirt junior running back Brittain Brown. A year ago Jackson received 2018 All-ACC second-team honors. He set the Duke single-game record for all-purpose yards with 403 at Pittsburgh, becoming just the third ACC player to reach 400 all-purpose yards in a contest. He also led Duke in rushing yards (847) and rushing touchdowns (7) while ranking second in points (54) and fourth in receptions (26).

Brown rushed 80 times for 369 yards (4.61) and three TDs, playing in nine games, missing the Georgia Tech, Virginia, Miami and North Carolina games due to injury. When healthy, Brown was one of the most dynamic offensive forces for the Blue Devils, scoring a 43-yard rushing touchdown and 44-yard receiving touchdown against N.C. Central, becoming the fourth player in program history to have a 40+ yard rushing score and 40+ yard receiving score in the same game, joining Buddy Mulligan, George McAfee and Elmore Hackney.

“We have a lot of running backs in the stable who are good enough to make plays on the field,” Jackson said. “I will be back along with Brittain. Mataeo [Durant] will also step up. We have Marvin [Hubbard III] coming back strong, too. There is a lot to look forward to next season.”

Hubbard III suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon against Virginia Tech, ending his season. Durant experienced action in nine games after injuries to Brown and Hubbard III forced increased action. He finished the year with 17 carries for 43 yards (2.53).

Duke lost a pair of three-year starters at linebacker in Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys. Giles-Harris declared for the 2019 NFL Draft and Humphreys exhausted his eligibility.

“Right now, Koby Quansah and Brandon Hill are the top two, but we have some people who are going to fight, scratch and claw,” Cutcliffe said. “This is Lanier Goethie’s second year, which is going to be helpful in this competition. I’m excited about it. Joe and Ben were great players. Together, they were perhaps phenomenal with how they knew one another. Those linebackers who are back are so excited. They got me excited. I love that spirit. They know they have huge shoes to fill. Part of the way to do that is with good energy.”

Last fall, Quansah played in 10 games and started two. He missed three contests while recovering from a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot. The rising senior totaled 38 tackles, 4.0 tackles for lost yardage, one pass breakup and one quarterback pressure. He finished the year with at least 1.0 TFL in the last three contests.

“Brandon and I have tried to take everything Ben and Joe taught us throughout the years and form it into our own combination together,” Quansah said. “We are both thankful for everything they taught us and grateful for this opportunity to do what we do. I’ve never been that much of a vocal leader, but leading by example. Naturally, you’ve seen guys like me become more vocal because we have younger guys below us, who don’t really know the game speed as much as we do. We need to teach them what we know.”

Jones, a projected first round NFL Draft selection, is spending this week in Indianapolis, Ind., at the NFL Scouting Combine. He is joined at the event by former teammates Giles-Harris and Daniel Helm. Giles-Harris was an All-America selection in 2017 and two-time first team All-ACC honoree while Helm was placed on the All-ACC squad in 2018.

Jones, a 6-5, 220-pound quarterback from Charlotte, N.C., was a two-year captain and two-time team Most Valuable Player with the Blue Devils. He played in and started 36 career games at Duke, completing 764 of 1,275 (.599) passes for 8,201 yards with 52 touchdowns and 29 interceptions while rushing 406 times for 1,323 yards and 17 scores. Jones was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the Reese’s Senior Bowl after leading the North squad back from a 12-3 halftime deficit to a 17-12 lead. Jones capped his Duke career by earning Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Offensive Player of the Game honors after leading Duke to a 56-27 win over Temple thanks to a bowl-record 423 passing yards and six total touchdowns (5 passing and 1 rushing). 

Daniel Jones and I did all the research and talked to all the right people,” Cutcliffe said. “We had great conversations. It was not until the very end of December that he made a decision. It was the same thing with Joe and with his family. All in all, I don’t think it could have been done in a classier way by either of those guys.” 

Five signees from this year’s crop enrolled at Duke in January and will be spending spring practice with the Blue Devils. Defensive back Jalen Alexander, defensive back Tony Davis, wide receiver Darrell Harding Jr., wide receiver Eli Pancol and offensive lineman Jacob Monk are spending their springs in Durham.

“It was good to have five new young people,” Cutcliffe said. “I noticed every one of those freshmen who joined us mid-year.”

A year ago, tight end Zamari Ellis, offensive lineman Casey Holman, quarterback Gunnar Holmberg and cornerback Jeremiah Lewis were early enrollees.

Beginning this spring, running back Brittain Brown and wide receiver Aaron Young are donning new jersey numbers.  Brown has transitioned from No. 22 into No. 8, while Young, who wore No. 8 since arriving at Duke, now sports No. 81.

Duke’s five mid-year enrollees have been assigned the following jersey numbers: Jalen Alexander – No. 30, Tony Davis – No. 13, Darrell Harding Jr., No. 3, Eli Pancol – No. 6 and Jacob Monk – No. 63.

A collection of former Blue Devils will turn their attention to Duke’s upcoming Pro Day, which is set for Tuesday, March 26. 

Coverage of Duke’s Pro Day will be provided by ACC Network Extra.

Duke opens the 2019 campaign in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Alabama on Saturday, August 31 in Atlanta, Ga. 

Tickets can be purchased by visiting or by calling the Duke Athletics Ticket Office at 919-681-BLUE (2583).

The teams will battle for The Old Leather Helmet Trophy, one of college football’s iconic rivalry-game trophies. Traditionally, winners of The Old Leather Helmet don the helmet on the field after the game, starting with the head coach and then rotating from player to player as the team celebrates its victory.

“It will be a big stage with big lights,” Quansah added. “It will be exactly where the Super Bowl was played, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. You get to see the stadium for the first time and live in the moment. It’s a lifetime experience that doesn’t happen often. We want to take it in, soak it in and enjoy it, but also remember what we’re there for.”

Season and single-game tickets for the 2019 Duke Football campaign are now available for purchase. This fall, the Blue Devils will host N.C. A&T, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Miami. The Blue Devils’ promotional schedule was also announced Thursday, with highlights including Iron Dukes Day, Teacher Appreciation Day and Military Appreciation Day.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting or by calling the Duke Athletics Ticket Office at 919-681-BLUE (2583).