Quentin Harris isn’t Duke’s lone “next man up” – the mantra its backups utilize to be ready – but he’s certainly the most important one.
He’s the new quarterback filling in for injured starter Daniel Jones. Quarterback, of course, is the the most important position in the most intricate team game, and Duke’s players and coaches say Harris has always prepared as if he’s the starter, knowing he’s one snap from seeing the field.
“Quentin Harris knows our offense,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “He’ a guy that works hard at everything he does. I have a lot of admiration for his readiness. He went into the game the other day with no cadence issues or reading (defense) issues. I thought he did an excellent job. He’s obviously getting a full week of preparation.”
Harris, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound redshirt junior, makes his first career start when the Blue Devils (2-0) play Baylor (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at McLane Stadium in Waco, Tx.
Jones is a third-year starter that is out out indefinitely, most likely at least a month, with a fractured left (non-throwing side) clavicle; he was sacked on the final play of the third quarter of Saturday’s 21-7 win at Northwestern. Duke led by the final winning score at the time, so Harris’ job was to protect the lead.
On three fourth quarter possessions, he finished 2-of-2 passing for 12 yards and ran the ball five times for 14 yards with no turnovers. He picked up one first down to eat time on the clock on each of his first two series but not on the third.
On the first, his 25-yard run got Duke out of a third-and-8 hole at its 8-yard. Duke was forced to punt four plays later when he was sacked twice for 12 yards.
On Duke’s second possession, he directed two first downs to move Duke from its 18-yard line to its 44. Following Austin Parker’s 56-yard punt into the end zone, Northwestern took over at its 20 needing two touchdowns with 5:32 remaining in the game.
“Quentin did a great job Saturday,” said senior wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd, who caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Jones. “That was tough. Quentin came in and had no cadence issues and took care of the ball. He took a few hits. He got field position for us, got us out of a backed up situation.
“We’re confident in Quentin. Obviously he has a little different skill set than Daniel, but we’re not going to change much. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We have full confidence in Quentin. He can do what we need him to do to get a win.”
Harris, a 3-star dual-threat quarterback when he was recruited out of The Taft School in Watertown, CT, is known as a runner, but the Blue Devils say he has a strong arm that can hit deep balls.
“Quentin just hasn’t been asked to throw the ball a lot,” Cutcliffe said. “I thought he threw it well today (in practice). He has his offensive way of doing things, and we’ll build on that. He has a really accurate arm. He throws the ball deep as well as anybody I’ve been around. He can throw intermediate; he’s a quick screen thrower; he’s got a lot of talent.”
Backup center Jack Wohlabaugh, the Ohio State transfer who has played extensively in both games, noted in the Army game Harris was ready in the Army game when Jones lost his helmet and was forced to leave the game, by NCAA rules, for at least one play. What he meant was no one had to yell to him or help him find his helmet.
“He noticed DJ’s helmet came off and he was in,” Wohlabaugh said. “He was ready to go.”
Up to now, Jones has started and played in all 27 games since he replaced injured Thomas Sirk at the start of the 2016 season (12 games in 2016, 13 in 2017 and two this year), so Harris’ snaps have been limited.
Harris played in only one game in 2016, running three times for nine yards and completing 1-of-3 passes for zero yards and no interceptions. He played in 10 games in 2017, running 29 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns and completed 7-of-10 passes 73 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Cutcliffe added redshirt freshman Chris Katrenick (6-3, 215) is the backup and true freshman Gunnar Holmberg (6-3, 190) of Heritage High in Wake Forest will travel to Baylor. Holmberg stepped into the scout team role of simulating Baylor’s two quarterbacks, Charlie Brewer and Jalen McClendon.
NEXT MEN UP
Duke also is replacing All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert, who suffered a season-ending hip injury at Northwestern.
Michael Carter, who started at cornerback opposite Gilbert against Army and at one of the three safety slots at Northwestern, shifts to Gilbert’s position. Josh Blackwell, who has been sharing the cornerback role opposite Gilbert, makes his second straight start.
Two other starters that are day-to-day are two fifth-year seniors, wide receiver Aaron Young and center Zach Harmon. Young missed the Northwestern game with a hamstring injury; Harmon left the Northwestern game with a leg injury. Chris Taylor and Young share one of the three wide receiver slots and Jack Wohlabaugh is Harmon’s backup.