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Roof weighs quarterback options

Another year, another quarterback controversy for the Duke football program.

For the entire season, head coach Ted Roof has maintained that redshirt junior Mike Schneider was the Duke starting quarterback. After four horrific outings and a strong challenge from true-freshman Zack Asack, however, Roof was not ready to name a starting quarterback for Saturday's homecoming game against Navy.

"We're going to wait to see what happens," Roof said when asked about the quarterback situation. "We're going to practice this week and give some guys some time and opportunities, and we will make an announcement a little bit closer to the game."

This was the season that Schneider was supposed to escape two years of on-and-off starting duty and emerge as the clear-cut leader of the Blue Devils. Schneider, however, has proven ineffective in leading a Blue Devil offense that ranks at the bottom of every category in the ACC, with the exception of rushing yards. In four games this season, Duke has mustered just 38 points in drives led by Schneider, a statistic made worse by the fact that 24 of those points came against Division I-AA VMI. In addition, Schneider has turned the ball over five times, completed less than 50 percent of his passes and has yet to throw a touchdown.

Nevertheless, Roof intimated that Schneider, a lightning rod for criticism in the past few weeks, was not completely responsible for the offense's dismal performance thus far.

"Mistakes at [quarterback] are magnified because he's got the ball in his hands," Roof said. "The mistakes that don't get brought out are the protection mistakes. People don't understand if the right route is always being run or if [Schneider] is looking for people in certain positions.

"It's not just any one specific facet or one specific player or coach, it's all of us and we all have to do better."

Despite those shortcomings, Asack has managed to move the ball impressively in his limited playing time. The true freshman first made an impact by leading the Blue Devils to consecutive touchdown drives in a 40-14 victory over VMI and was responsible for Duke's only score in last weekend's 38-7 loss at Virginia. He has thrown both of Duke's touchdown passes, one of which, a 30-yard strike to wide receiver Jomar Wright, stands as the Blue Devils' longest pass play of the season.

"It would have been real easy to take a safe read and hit a guy open in the flat, but he had enough confidence in his ability to throw the ball down the field and hit Jomar for a touchdown," Roof said. "I thought he avoided some negative-yardage plays and kept his vision down the field and delivered the ball to his receivers. He's got some positive things going."

Yet the inexperienced Asack committed his fair share of mistakes last Saturday, tossing two costly interceptions against the Cavaliers. Moreover, all of Asack's touchdown drives have come in late-game situations with the outcome already decided.

Echoing Roof's sentiments, the team didn't play favorites when speculating about this week's starter.

"I'm confident in whoever they put out there to get the job done, to get the offense moving," defensive end Phillip Alexander said. "They're all good athletes and whoever gets the nod is going to be prepared to take us to victory."

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