I’m not going to lie—I had high expectations for Duke’s offense under quarterback Chase Brice in 2020.
The Clemson transfer seemed primed to bring in a new era of offense for the Blue Devils, one that stretches the field and leaves behind the painful days of screen passes in Wallace Wade Stadium.
Three games in, however, it’s the same old song and dance.
Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Virginia is just proving the inevitable for Duke—it’s time to try something new at the quarterback position. Despite throwing his first two scores as a Blue Devil, Brice completed less than 50 percent of his passes and tossed four interceptions. Duke has scored just two red zone touchdowns this year as the offense routinely fails to finish drives and hold onto the football.
Head coach David Cutcliffe benched Brice with six minutes to play in the contest, but this meant more than just putting in the second string for garbage time. This offense clearly isn't clicking under the Georgia native, and there simply isn’t a big enough talent disparity in the QB room to keep from trying other options going forward.
Redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holmberg and redshirt junior Chris Katrenick both got a crack at fixing Duke’s troubles late in the loss, though it wasn’t anything to write home about. Holmberg showed his willingness to use his legs as an added threat, but fumbled on a fourth-and-one in Blue Devil territory. Katrenick threw two nice passes for first downs on his series, but the offense eventually stalled and gave the ball up on downs. Neither earned a starting job with their performance against Virginia, but they deserve a chance that isn’t a garbage time drive in a spur of the moment decision.
There have certainly been attempts to make Brice into more of a mobile quarterback to start the season, though it’s becoming evident that he simply doesn’t fit in with that play style. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder was brought in to throw the ball accurately down the field for Duke, and he simply hasn’t made those throws.
Maybe it’s just a matter of chemistry with the receiving corps, but if Brice isn’t even capitalizing on his strengths, then perhaps try the option that presents a real dual-threat running and throwing the ball or the option with four years in the Duke program and system under his belt.
It isn’t a guarantee that another option is better for the Blue Devils. Holmberg has yet to attempt a pass in a Duke uniform, while Katrenick has completed just 35.7 percent of his passes over three seasons. To be fair, Brice has yet to get a week of preparation with current game film on the Blue Devils’ opponent, but as the competition has gotten easier over the course of three weeks, his play is becoming sloppier. It’s just time to see what Cutcliffe’s other weapons can do.
This quarterback controversy has passed the point of just salvaging this season. Brice and Katrenick both have a year of eligibility remaining after 2020, while Holmberg has two. Whoever ultimately rides out this season as Duke’s signal caller will be leading the team for the near future, and the program can’t afford to make a mistake on that decision.
We’ve seen what Brice brings to the table—now let Holmberg or Katrenick prepare for a whole week as the starter and watch what they can do for four quarters. If Cutcliffe doesn’t like what he sees? Give the other guy a shot.
Duke fans only get to see the final product for three hours on Saturdays, and only those in the program know how the quarterback situation plays out Sunday through Friday.
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Brice has definitely earned his starting job through practice, but ultimately, it is those three hours on Saturdays that mean everything. At 0-3, there isn’t a reason not to, for now, go in another direction under center.