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Daniel Jones proved he was a better quarterback than NFL fans judged him at Duke upon taking over the New York Giants’ starting role as the sixth pick of the NFL draft.
Quentin Harris, a fifth-year senior who succeeded Jones, showed flashes early in the season winning three of four games over N.C. Central, Virginia Tech and George Tech. But then Duke’s schedule got tougher, and the Blue Devils finished 4-8 overall and 3-5 and in sixth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s seven-team Coastal Division.
The common denominator to Jones and Harris not leading Duke to better records with better numbers has been offensive line play. It’s failed to provided much protection in the passing game.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe addressed the offensive line when assistant coach Jim Bridges was not brought back for the 2020 season, and he was able to replace him with his target, Greg Frey.
“We’re thrilled to have Coach Frey join our staff,” said Cutcliffe in a statement released earlier in the week. “It isn’t often you have the opportunity to add an individual who, within the landscape of college football, played at the highest level, has coached at the highest level and comes with 20-plus years of experience on the sideline.”
Frey, 51, spent last season as a quality control coach at Florida, but he has coached the offensive line at Florida State, Michigan, South Florida, West Virginia and Indiana.
Duke’s offensive line returns four of five starters, losing only redshirt senior Zach Baker at right guard.
Center Jack Wohlabaugh, an All-ACC honorable mention choice despite missing the last three games with a season-ending ankle injury, returns as a redshirt senior. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Ohio State transfer entering his third Duke season will anchor a more mature line.
Right guard Rakavius Chambers (6-3, 315) enters his senior season, left tackle Casey Holman (6-4, 295) his redshirt sophomore year and right tackle Jacob Monke (6-3, 305) his true sophomore season.
Duke opens with three winnable home games against Middle Tennessee State of Conference USA, Sept. 5; Elon of the FCS Colonial Athletic Association, Sept. 12; and Charlotte of the Conference USA in a Thursday night affair, Sept. 17.
The ACC opener Sept. 26 at Pitt is Sept. 26 and ACC Wallace Wade Stadium home opener Oct. 3 against Wake Forest.
N.C. State (Atlantic Division) and Duke (Coastal Division) finally play again as cross-division opponents on Oct. 10 at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Triangle schools separated by 24 miles haven’t played since 2013.
Duke’s rivalry game with North Carolina is Oct. 17 at Wallace Wade.
If the Blue Devils are still in the running for the division title or eyeing their best bowl destination, remaining games are Oct. 31, at Notre Dame; Nov. 7, at Georgia Tech; Nov. 13 (Friday), Virginia at home; Nov. 21, Virginia Tech at home; and Nov. 28, at Miami.
MORE TIME FOR MOORE
Eighth-ranked Duke (16-3, 6-2 ACC) is off until Tuesday when Pitt, coached by former Duke player and assistant coach Jeff Capel, visits Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“We get a little break from competition,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Wendell (Moore) won’t be ready by next week. It’s a (weekend) we don’t lose a game. Joey (Baker) has been playing with kind of a sprained ankle. It’s time to get rejuvenated after eight conference games.”
Moore, a freshman guard/forward averaging 7.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 14 games (five starts) has missed the last five contests with a broken finger suffered Jan. 4 in a win at Miami.
Tom Shanahan is freelance writer based in Cary and author of Raye of Light, a book featuring Fayetteville’s Jimmy Raye as a pioneering black quarterback for College Football Hall of Fame coach Duffy Daugherty on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad football teams of the 1960s.