Duke announced Tuesday afternoon that quarterback Thomas Sirk had suffered a ruptured left achilles during team conditioning drills. Sirk underwent surgery on Wednesday. There is no timetable set for his return. Sirk ruptured his right achilles tendon during the spring of 2013 and missed the entire season after redshirting. While no one has declared that Sirk will definitely miss next season, the typical recovery time for an injury this severe averages at about 8 months, putting his possible return right in the middle of the season. Even if Sirk was able to recover in time to play in 2016 there are no guarantees he would be able to regain his form pre-injury. And for a player who relies a lot on his running ability to play the position effectively, the injury could be devastating.
The unfortunate news has cast a huge cloud of uncertainty over the Duke offense for the 2016 season. Duke had built a bit of positive momentum heading into the offseason after their exciting Pinstripe Bowl win and the welcoming of a stellar recruiting class on National Signing Day. The Blue Devils will have to find a way to regroup and focus on the task at hand of finding a new leader on offense.
The Blue Devils have three options at the quarterback position if Sirk is indeed out for the 2016 season. One has meaningful experience at Duke and a familiar name while the other two have yet to see the field in a college football game.
If there were Vegas odds on who would be the starting quarterback for Duke on opening weekend, Parker Boehme would be the favorite. Boehme served as the backup to Sirk during 2015. He also started the game against Pittsburgh while Sirk was out with injury. Duke lost the game 31-13 but Boehme finished with 248 passing yards, completing 23 of 42 attempts with one interception. Boehme also ran for 80 yards and a touchdown. Boehme also saw some time the following week against Virginia. When the game turned into an unexpected blowout after 3 quarters, Boehme was put into the game and somehow rallied the Blue Devils, leading 2 touchdown drives and putting Duke in position to tie the game at the end. In about a quarter of action against Virginia Boehme racked up 178 passing yards and a touchdown, although only completing 42.1% of his passes (mostly due to the desperation of being short on time and points) and adding another touchdown on the ground.
That game and a half amounts to the most experience among all the remaining quarterbacks on the roster. Boehme’s skill set is similar to that of Sirk’s. While Boehme may have a slightly stronger arm, he is still known as a strong, athletic QB who will make just as many plays with his legs as he will with his arm. Boehme would, theoretically, make the transition easier for the rest of the team and coaches since he and Sirk are so similar in their playing style, the offensive schemes and playcalling wouldn’t have to be tweaked that much.
The darkhorse candidate to takeover the starting QB position may be Daniel Jones. Jones was a bit of an unknown in high school. The Charlotte native was rated as a 2 star prospect by 247sports, but went unnoticed by all Power 5 schools, other than Duke. Jones has the size you want from a high level QB. He enrolled at Duke as a grey shirt, but was, reportedly, very impressive in practice and stood out immediately. Depending on his development over the last year relative to his competition, Jones could contend for the top spot on the depth chart.
The other candidate is redshirt freshman Quentin Harris. Harris is a talented dual threat quarterback out of Connecticut. He was rated as the 3 star prospect by 247sports in high school and chose the Blue Devils over Boston College. Harris is smaller in stature than Jones, standing at 6-1, but possesses the mobility that Coach Cutcliffe and staff have looked for in their quarterback recruits. For what its worth, Harris was listed as the backup heading into the Pitt game that Boehme started.
The race for the starting quarterback position is as wide open as its ever been at Duke under David Cutcliffe. All three potential starters will be given every opportunity to seize the position. Spring practice will give us our first glimpse at who could be the next starting quarterback, but in all likelihood the position won’t be locked in until the fall, maybe even a few games into the season.