Tuesday Duke football notes
When the season opens this Saturday against Elon, Duke will start true sophomores Breon Borders and Bryon Fields at its cornerback positions after their strong freshman seasons in 2013.
Both played major roles in Duke’s 10-4 season as reserves. Borders intercepted four passes and had eight pass breakups. Fields had a sack and six pass breakups.
After that experience of playing true freshmen as key reserves worked out so well, the Blue Devils are giving it a go again. The depth chart shows true freshmen Zach Muniz and Alonzo Saxton as the No. 2 cornerbacks.
Redshirt freshmen Evrett Edwards and Phillip Carter are backups at safety.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said chances are good for similarly strong results.
“I think it’s very similar,” Cutcliffe said. “You are going to see Alonzo and Zach playing at the corners. They’ve had great camps. They are going to have their times. They’re freshmen.”
Quarterback positioning – With Anthony Boone the clear starter at quarterback for his redshirt senior season, Duke will look to unproven redshirt sophomore Thomas Sirk to fill the short-yardage role previously manned so well by Brandon Connette.
Last season, Connette accounted for 27 touchdowns (rushing and passing) in his complimentary role. He has since transferred to play his final season at Fresno State, where he can be closer to his ailing mother, who is stricken with cancer.
Sirk gets the first crack at replacing Connette with redshirt freshman Parker Boehme the team’s No. 3 quarterback and himself a rising star, according to Cutcliffe.
“Parker is no distant anything,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s had a good camp. He knows the things he has to do. Don’t be shocked if you end up seeing both of them in the game. But Thomas Sirk is going to be part of the plan. He has been a tremendous threat running and passing the football.”
Tight end shuffle – With Braxton Deaver being lost for the season to a torn ACL, redshirt junior David Reeves is Duke’s starting tight end with redshirt sophomore Erich Schneider at No. 2. Freshman Davis Koppenhaver will also be in the mix for playing time because of Deaver’s absence.
Koppenhaver would likely have taken a redshirt year. But that is not certain now.
“DJ Reeves and Erich Schneider have done a great job of understanding our offense, our system and what it takes to be effective in the ACC,” Boone said.
New offensive line set – With Dave Harding and Perry Simmons having completed their standout careers last season, Lucas Patrick and Casey Blaser will start on Saturday as their replacements.
Patrick, a 6-4, 305-pound redshirt junior, is the new starting left guard while Blaser takes Simmons’ old slot at right tackle.
Tanner Stone will be Blaser’s backup with redshirt junior Cody Robinson serving in a reserve role behind Patrick.
The returning starters are left tackle Takoby Cofield, center Matt Skura and right guard Laken Tomlinson.
Patrick missed Duke’s two preseason scrimmages due to concussion symptoms but has returned to practice and is playing well.
“He’s 100 percent healthy, which is great,” Skura said. “He’s a real, big, thick kid. You like having him around on the interior moving guys around. I don’t know of any weaknesses for him. He’s just a great player. I love having him next to me.”
Four of Duke’s starting offensive linemen weigh 305 pounds or more, with Tomlinson topping the group at 330. The only starter who is below 300 pounds is Blaser at 285.
Stone weighs 300 pounds, but Blaser was the clear winner for the starting job in their training camp competition.
“Right now Casey is the starter,” Cutcliffe said. “Tanner is No.2. It’s not a 1A and 1B. But I certainly expect Tanner to play. I expect Cody Robinson to play. I think (backup center) Austin Davis has had a terrific camp. Sterling Korona has a chance to play (at right guard). Gabe Brandner has continued to get better and better over there playing behind Takoby.”