Duke turns to new QB, Quentin Harris, in 2019

dukeDuke coach David Cutcliffe is known for his work with quarterbacks: guys named Manning, Daniel Jones, the #6 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

It would seem that Cutcliffe has his work cut out for him heading into the fall, with a new quarterback in Quentin Harris, whose claim to fame to this point is that he’s a career backup.

Except that, it’s not exactly the case that Harris doesn’t have any starting experience.

“If you’re familiar with our season, a year ago, Quentin played a huge role in the season with Daniel’s injury, but also the mechanism of how they’re trained, what they do day-to-day,” Cutcliffe told reporters at last week’s ACC Kickoff.

Jones had to miss Duke’s games with Baylor and NC Central in September due to injury, and Harris filled in nicely, throwing for 376 yards and six touchdowns, and adding 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground, in two starts, both Duke wins.

Harris took snaps in all 13 Duke games in 2018, used, outside of the two starts, in Wildcat packages.

Cutcliffe talked up his QB’s preparation on a week-to-week basis as a foundational element for his elevation to the starting job, while Harris emphasized his work with the second unit as a key.

“I think one of the nice things about losing that many starters on offense is the guys that are now coming into starting roles are guys I’ve been practicing with the last few years. We’ve been able to build a good rapport. Coming through our off-season work through the spring, we’ve taken a lot of strides getting on the same page and building our chemistry,” Harris said.

Accuracy may be a focal point for Cutcliffe. Harris connected on just 50.6 percent of his pass attempts last year.

“He was asked about his accuracy based on completion percentage. Those are completely two different things,” Cutcliffe said. “So, when you become a starting quarterback in a league like the ACC, there is accuracy, which is the physical mechanics of putting the ball where you want it time and time again. What people don’t understand is that’s just a small portion of completion percentage. Completion percentage is presnap reads. When you become a master of a presnap read, you have a much better chance of having a completion.

“You have post-snap reads where you know where you want to go. You not only know where and when, because it’s got to happen on time. You have to understand why I’m making certain throws.”

And that will come with time, and reps, according to Harris.

“I think for me it’s kind of getting more in-game reps with that, continuing to build rapport with the receivers,” Harris said. “I think definitely it’s something I want to improve upon, the completion percentage. As I get more comfortable, as I kind of learn maybe how to dissect coverages in a certain way, get more familiarity with the plays that we’re running, I think that will naturally happen.”

A big focal point for Cutcliffe will be molding the Duke offense around Harris’ skill set.

“We have a big ol’ wide array of offense, a lot of sets, a lot of pass concepts. What we want to do is zero in on what Quentin Harris believes in. So that’s really what we’re working on,” Cutcliffe said.

Story by Chris Graham

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