It was just five years ago when an experienced and promising Duke football team received some disheartening news. Despite a 2-0 start, the Blue Devils would have to move forward without Anthony Boone, their star junior quarterback, who broke his clavicle in the previous game.
Coach David Cutcliffe would have to turn to another junior signal caller, Brandon Connette, a run-first threat who had not seen an extended opportunity to show off his passing game at Duke.
Sound familiar? Duke’s 2018 squad has faced an almost identical situation with backup quarterback Quentin Harris filling in admirably for regular starter Daniel Jones. Through two starts, Harris has totaled 493 total yards and 7 touchdowns, while in 2013 Connette started three games in Boone’s absence and posted 940 total yards and 12 scores.
Most Duke fans remember that, following Boone’s return, the Blue Devils went on to win the ACC Coastal Division and played an all-time classic in the Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, but do they remember how Coach Cutcliffe and his staff utilized Connette after Boone returned from his injury?
In his fourth year with the program, Connette tallied game experience in previous years, but was not given extended looks until after his impressive showing during the three games he started. Boone was a talented runner in his own right but he couldn’t be turned loose to take a lot of hits, as it could risk further injury. Therefore, Duke utilized both of them, trusting Boone to take most of the throws and using Connette for certain running situations.
In the nine games that followed, Connette rushed for 8 more touchdowns, as the Blue Devils finished the year with their first ten win season in program history. This year’s team certainly has similar aspirations, and with Daniel Jones expected to return in the next few weeks, Cutcliffe and offensive coordinator Zac Roper should still use Harris in the offense moving forward.
Jones is a serious threat to run the football, but that would be risking more damage to his collarbone. Harris has already been effective running the ball, averaging 5.4 yards per carry this season. However, he may have even more room to run now that defenses have seen his passing ability. Jones would still receive the majority of the snaps and would still be free to run the ball, but his counterpart would take some goal-to-go and short-yardage situations.
Harris has proven himself to be a playmaker through his first two starts, and it would be a shame for the Blue Devils to not utilize such a weapon even after their star signal caller makes his way back on the field.