But, forced to move forward, the Blue Devils have embraced Roof, who until last week served as defensive coordinator.
Though they lost 28-21 to North Carolina Saturday in Roof's first game as head coach, the Blue Devils battled to the end, scoring a touchdown and field goal in a one-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter before falling.
The next challenge for the Blue Devils comes Saturday against Tennessee (4 p.m. at Neyland Stadium).
''He's been around and we like him,'' he said. ''His attitude is positive. If you make a mistake, he wants you to do it 100 miles per hour. He has a go-get-em attitude. Now he will have more influence over the offense, too. He will bring us together as a unit.''
Roof's enthusiasm has become infectious. The Blue Devils like playing for the former All-ACC linebacker from Georgia Tech.
''It's different with him,'' Zielinski said. ''He is a guy who had great success in the ACC. He is young and has a lot of pep. He is here for the players. A lot of coaches say that, but he means it.
''I think he will make changes to turn things around for the better. He has fresh ideas. The players rally around him.''
That's not to say Franks wore out his welcome with the players. A 2-5 overall record and 0-5 conference mark were his undoing.
''It caught us by surprise,'' Zielinski said. ''The talk always comes up when you are losing. He told us not to worry about it, that this shouldn't be put on the players' shoulders. But I felt a man lost his job because I wasn't doing mine. I wish I could have done things to help us win more games. It makes you think about things you could have done.
''He definitely did a lot for the players, and he didn't ask for credit. We didn't want to see this happen.''
Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva didn't enjoy the task of firing Franks, but he felt it was the right move at the right time.
''I felt like our football team wasn't going in the right direction,'' he said. ''I said all along that Carl was my coach as long as I felt we were making progress. This year I haven't had that feeling. Even in the games we won, I didn't feel like we were making the kind of progress that we need to be making.
''As I have told the team, there is more talent on this team than we are showing on the field. In the world we live in, the head coach is responsible. He's a good man and he has worked hard. It just hasn't worked.''
Roof, like the players, was a supporter of Franks, but he knows it is time to turn his attention to his new role.
''Carl Franks is a good man, a good coach and a good person,'' he said. ''It is a shame that this has happened to someone we consider a friend. We certainly wish Carl good luck.
''Now, our job as football coaches is to get these players ready to play each week. That is what we need to focus on and nothing else.''
Taking over at midseason is never easy for a coach. Roof doesn't expect miracles, just a good effort from each player on a regular basis.
''It is difficult to make the transition,'' Roof said. ''We are all creatures of habit and we are used to doing certain things. At the same time, we have to look at what we are doing as a coaching staff and see what we can do to improve our decision making. We just need to play with our heart and our heads. We need to look at ourselves and make sure we are playing to the best of our ability.''
Roof doesn't anticipate making any sweeping changes in the Blue Devils' style of play.
''I don't have a different style than coach Franks,'' he said. ''He was my boss. We made decisions together. I try to be honest with the players and push them to do their best. I want them to look in the mirror and feel like they have had the best opportunity to win that we could give them.''
Though he will have a say in how the offense is run, Roof says he will allow offensive coordinator Jim Pry the freedom to do his job.
''I will have some input, but Jim is in charge of the offense,'' Roof said. ''I have a lot of trust in our offensive coaches.''
Linebacker Ryan Fowler believes Duke has the right man in charge.
''Coach Roof is going to bring some intensity and demand more out of us because that is the way he is,'' Fowler said. ''He is a good motivational guy. This is his team now. I think he will change the team for the better.''