Duke Football began their spring practice period on Saturday, making all the changes in the offseason, some unexpected, official. Duke has said goodbye to some players and coaches that had played an important role in upgrading the program.
Scottie Montgomery leaving to become the head coach at East Carolina was an early change to the coaching staff. Zac Roper was promoted to the offensive coordinator position. Jim Bridge was hired from Purdue to take over Roper’s spot as tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. Long time Cutcliffe assistant John Latina retired and Marcus Johnson was promoted to offensive line coach to replace him. Ben Albert came over from Boston College to become the defensive line coach as Jim Collins moved to an administrative position on the staff.
The staff changes will bring about some adjustments, both seen and unseen, but the players already have a familiarity with Roper and Johnson, so the offense will still have plenty of continuity. Still, spring practice is a good time for the players and coaches to get aclimated with one another and any scheme and system changes.
The biggest question for Duke Football entering spring practice is who will be the starting quarterback on week 1. Thomas Sirk tore his achilles during offseason conditioning. Coach Cutcliffe has said they will proceed as if Sirk will not be able to play this season.
Cutcliffe indicated that Parker Boehme will begin the spring as QB1. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as Boehme is the only QB on the roster to see the field in a game. Boehme knows the play book and scheme well and has performed well when his number has been called.
Daniel Jones and Quentin Harris will get a fair shot to claim the starting QB spot. Both players were redshirts last season, they’re first on campus. Both players reportedly showed well in practice and workouts. Time will tell if they are ready to contribute for the Blue Devils. If history is any indicator, at least one of the two will see some playing time even if Boehme remains the starter. Cutcliffe has made a habit out of using his backup quarterback in certain packages.
The Blue Devils are also tasked with replacing safety Jeremy Cash. There isn’t a player on the roster who can be expected to come in and have the impact that Cash did. Duke will have to hope the collective effort of the defense will be enough to make up for the loss of the ACC DPOY. Corbin McCarthy may be the starter, but Duke has recruited a lot of talent to play on the back end of the defense over the last few years so expect a lot of competition in the secondary.
DeVon Edwards will play his senior season at the cornerback position. He played corner in the final two games of the 2015 season, but has been a safety the entirety of his collegiate career up to that point. Duke will also return Bryon Fields, who missed all of 2015 due to injury. Fields was slated to start opposite Breon Borders again last season before hearing his ACL. Fields will be limited this spring as he continues to rehab his knee, but is expected to be ready to go this fall. Between Borders, Edwards, and Fields, Duke will have a trio of talented and experienced defenders at the cornerback position.
Duke will have their spring showcase April 9.