2006 Preview: Quarterbacks

With the recent season-long suspension of projected starter Zack Asack, Duke will field only two scholarship signal-callers for the 2006 season. Going into preseason practice, sophomore Marcus Jones is the unquestioned leader of the offense.

As a true freshman, he split time between quarterback and wide receiver. Because of the lack of numbers at QB, and the fact he is the starter, Jones will line up exclusively under center this fall.

Jones is probably the best overall athlete that Duke has lined up under center in quite some time. He possesses a strong arm, quick feet, and innate elusiveness to avoid pressure. He has not, however, had to deal with the pressures and responsibilities of being the starter.

Backing Jones up will be true freshman Thaddeus Lewis. Coming from a high level of competition in the greater Miami area, Lewis will probably be more ready than any recent freshman arrival to play QB in the ACC. He is more of a passing threat than Jones, but will probably need some time to adjust to the speed of the college game. Lewis might get an early trial-by-fire as there is nowhere else for the coaches to turn should Jones have to come out of the game.

Walk-on Steve Lattanzio will serve as the 3rd string QB. He put up solid numbers in high school and was recruited by some 1-AA schools before deciding to come to Duke.

The Good News:
With Jones at the helm, Duke will have arguably its best athlete with the ball in his hands on every snap. For an offense that has struggled to score points for most of the last decade, this might be the change of pace needed to finally put some points on the board. Jones and Lewis are both very mobile quarterbacks that will allow the Duke offensive coaches freedom to move the pocket and use the signal-callers as running threats.

The Bad News:
Even if Jones ends up picking up the slack from Asack's suspension, the fact remains that Duke can ill-afford injuries here. With a highly questionable offensive line, it is quite likely that Jones and/or Lewis will get hit frequently. Hopefully for the Devils, they are resilient. Injuries aside, the jury is still out on both quarterbacks with respect to their ability to lead the offense. Jones saw very limited snaps in 2005. Reports out of spring practice indicate that Jones has a ways to go reading defenses and keeping throws over the middle down. In the case of Lewis, it is very difficult to judge how a QB will handle the jump from high school to college. Lewis seems to have all of the qualities for success in college, but until he actually plays he will be a question mark.

What will happen:
Jones will struggle initially as he tries to adjust himself to being the man leading the offense. He will make some mistakes early on that will leave most observers scratching their heads. As he gets more comfortable, however, he will start making plays that give the Duke offense a chance to score points. By the end of the season, Jones will have established himself as the clear number-one option at QB, which Asack and Lewis will have trouble unseating in 2007. Of course this prediction is all based on the assumption that Jones does not get injured behind a seemingly porous offensive line. If he's injured, Lewis will be forced into action before he's ready. He might step up to the challenge, but most Duke fans would like to see their starting QB in one piece for the 2006 campaign.

Is this group Not Ready, Can Compete, ACC-ready, Good as any team? Not ready

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