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Quentin Harris Ready to Lead Duke

By Dave Holcomb
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It would be wrong to assume the Blue Devils won’t post another winning season in 2019 just because they lost quarterback Daniel Jones.

Under head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke has earned a trip to a bowl game in six of the last seven years. Before Cutcliffe arrived in Durham, the Blue Devils advanced to the postseason six times in the previous 64 seasons.

Sure, there’s a heck of a lot more bowl games in today’s college landscape that 50 years ago or even two decades ago. But clearly, Cutcliffe has established a perennial winning football program at Duke.

It would be wrong to assume the Blue Devils won’t post another winning season in 2019 just because they lost quarterback Daniel Jones, who went sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

As a Top Ten pick, Jones enters the NFL with extremely high expectations, but he wasn’t necessarily the reason why Duke won eight games last season. Actually, as a starter, Jones posted just a 18-19 college record over three years.

Among qualified starting quarterbacks in the ACC, Jones was outside the Top 5 in yards, yards per attempt and completion percentage. He was fifth in the conference in touchdowns with 22 and threw nine interceptions.

That’s not to say Jones wasn’t good. He executed Cutcliffe’s system well as a multi-year starter. But with a number of years within a college system as well, Harris could do the same for Duke in 2019.

Harris, who is a fifth-year senior, started two games last season, winning both and helped Duke finish a road win at then-ranked Northwestern after Jones left with an injury. In his two starts, Harris went 27-for-57 with 376 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

In addition to the two starts, Duke utilized Harris in red zone packages. He rushed for 195 yards and five touchdowns in 2018.

The fifth-year senior experienced his best performance on the ground during his start at Baylor, rushing for 83 yards on 14 attempts. He also had a rushing touchdown in his other start against N.C. Central.

In 68 passing attempts last season, Harris threw seven touchdowns and only one interception. Obviously, this is a small sample size, but it’s still impressive.

Especially when considering Harris also played very well this spring. Cutcliffe made it clear to Athlon Sports that Harris hasn’t be “handed the reins” but took them this offseason.

“Quentin (Harris) is accomplished, right now, in running our offense, knows what he’s doing, knows how to do it, and he has taken command of that operation, throwing the ball really well.”
When it comes down to it, that’s the real key to Duke’s offense -- a veteran leader behind center that can run Cutcliffe’s pro-style offense. In essence, that’s what made Jones such an attractive draft pick for the New York Giants.

It’s now Harris’ turn, and he brings more of a running ability than most of the classic quarterbacks Cutcliffe has had under his tutelage. That should add another dynamic wrinkle to the Duke offense.

The Blue Devils may need it, as Duke’s top four pass-catchers from the 2018 season all graduated. Of the returning players, running back Deon Jackson led the team with 26 catches and 253 receiving yards last year.

Rising sophomore Jake Bobo and senior-to-be Aaron Young are the top two returning wideouts for Duke, and they combined to post 17 receptions, 306 yards and two touchdowns last season.

With that in mind, Harris’ dual-threat ability will be even more important. Jackson and fellow rising-junior running back Brittain Brown will be too.

But just because Duke lost Jones doesn’t mean the Blue Devils are set for a rebuilding year. Duke is still very capable of earning yet another trip to a bowl game during 2019.