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Duke football 2021 positional preview: Quarterbacks

Graduate student Gunnar Holmberg is set to lead the Blue Devils' offense after appearing in just seven games prior to the 2021 season.
Graduate student Gunnar Holmberg is set to lead the Blue Devils' offense after appearing in just seven games prior to the 2021 season.

With the 2021 season right around the corner, The Chronicle breaks down each of the eight major position groups for the Blue Devils: Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers and specialists.  

The Blue Devils will start the year with some new names at the top of the lineup of quarterbacks, filling the void created by last season’s departures. The depth of the team may be slim, but the good news is that Gunnar Holmberg is already set to be the starting quarterback for 2021. That being said, let’s take a look at the lineup changes and how the current roster can step up as the team’s new offensive initiators.

Key players lost: Chase Brice, Chris Katrenick

After just one season, Chase Brice, the formerly highly-touted transfer from Clemson, entered the transfer portal again after his year in Durham, and he chose to play at Appalachian State this fall. Brice’s lone season at Duke was especially underwhelming, as he threw a total of 15 interceptions while contributing only 10 touchdowns through the air, with a poor completion rate of 54.8%. 

Chris Katrenick, who was a redshirt junior last season, decided to opt out for the remainder of the year after playing just one game against Virginia, in which he went 2-for-3 with 40 yards. Like Brice, he also entered the transfer portal and will play for Eastern Illinois this year.

Given the limited experience of remaining players, Duke’s quarterbacks will need to step up quickly this season with these departures.

Projected Starter: Gunnar Holmberg

Holmberg, standing at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, will start for Duke this season as a graduate student. The Wake Forest, N.C., native has only seen limited action at Duke—he sat behind Brice throughout the 2020 campaign, appearing in six games and completing 18 passes for 161 yards with two interceptions. 

In 2018, he rushed for 19 yards in a single attempt during the final minutes of the Blue Devils' Independence Bowl win against Temple, and then he spent the entire 2019 season rehabbing from a torn meniscus. With his limited game experience, filling the shoes of a starting quarterback may be a tough task, but Holmberg has looked up for the challenge during training camp, as he has cemented his role as starter and earned praise from head coach David Cutcliffe.

Dark Horse: Luca Diamont

The redshirt freshman from Venice, Ca., arrived in Durham in January 2020 and is ready to suit up as Duke’s second-string quarterback. As a high school prospect, Diamont received a plethora of offers from multiple big-name programs before choosing Duke as he saw head coach David Cutcliffe’s system as his best fit. His athleticism combined with his arm strength makes him one of the more talented players on the roster, but given that he has only played one game last year against Florida State, more experience is needed for him to step up in a big game.

For the rest of our Duke preseason coverage, click here.

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