As spring practice ends, Daniel Jones looks ahead

Dukes starting quarterback looks to go deep this year

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones (17) is swarmed by teammates after scoring a second-quarter touchdown during the college football rivalry game against North Carolina on Thursday

DURHAM — Last spring, Daniel Jones was preparing to battle Parker Boehme for the backup quarterback job. This year, he’s finishing up his first spring as the incumbent starter.As a redshirt freshman, Jones stepped into the starting role in August after Thomas Sirk was lost for the year with a torn Achilles. He set just about every freshman passing record at Duke, but the Blue Devils suffered through a losing season.Duke football has grown accustomed to breaking long streaks in recent years. Although usually the team has been ending droughts as it enjoyed an extended run of success. Last season, however, Duke snapped a successful streak, missing its first bowl since the 2011 season.”It wasn’t a whole lot of fun to sit at home and watch all the bowls,” Jones said. “It’s definitely been a big motivator for us. I know, talking to the guys, we’re all excited to get out here and get back to work. I feel like we’ve sustained that motivation and energy throughout the spring. Everybody’s excited about what we can do this year.”The team went back to basics, starting spring ball in mid-February and going back to square one.”This spring, we’ve actually kind of focused on the fundamentals of the game, just competing and playing football,” Jones said. “It’s been good to lock in on what you’re doing and just play football, back to the fundamentals. I feel like we made a lot of progress.”The Blue Devils’ spring season will end on Saturday with a controlled scrimmage instead of a Blue-White Game.While the team has made fundamentals a priority, Jones is also ready to take on more during his second season as starter. Specifically, he wants to try to produce more big plays after running a safer offense during his rookie year.”Looking at our offense, I’d like to be able to stretch the field more consistently,” Jones said. “Maybe that’s explosive passing or explosive running, but just go down the field.”Jones should have plenty of targets to choose from as he looks to thrown deep.”Our receivers have been a real bright spot for us this camp,” Jones said. “Scott (Bracey), Aaron (Young), Chris (Taylor), T.J. (Rahming) and Trevon (Lee). Then there’s Jonathan (Lloyd) and Keeston (Fuller). That’ll be big for us this fall, having that much depth and being able to play a whole bunch of guys and have chemistry with a whole bunch of guys. That’s been good for us this spring. Big plays and explosive offense—that’s something we’ll be able to get done.”The offensive line, which is replacing two starters, has also done its part in spring drills.”I think we have made some strides in our down-the-field offense,” Jones said. “Just from a physicality standpoint, the guys up front are doing a great job. They’re getting downhill on run blocking and setting the tone. The backs, Shaun (Wilson), Elijah (Deveaux) and Brittain (Brown) have all looked great. It’s just good to see the physicality.”As Jones looks farther downfield, he has no reason to look back.Sirk, the former starter whose injury gave him a chance to step up, is officially off the roster after deciding to transfer to play his final year. Jones, who was close to Sirk over the last two seasons (as a redshirt and as a starter), will miss his mentor, but it’s part of the game.”We have people to step up,” Jones said. “While we hate to lose guys, and we hate to see them go, we’re happy for them to get to move on to another opportunity. We’ll have people step up and keep going forward.”