Duke starting quarterback Daniel Jones got tougher, taller and stronger as he progressed through Charlotte Latin High School.
He also helped his Hawks become more successful, leading them to back-to-back NCISAA state championship appearances after a paltry 4-6 record his debut campaign.
It’s the toughness that most impressed Davidson Day coach Chad Grier, whose team lined up against Jones and the Hawks several times.
“He was a little guy (as a sophomore), and when I was scouting him he was just taking a beating,” Grier said.
Inside his head, Grier advised Jones to ‘Stay down. Stay down.’
“And he just kept getting up,” Grier said. “He’s a tough kid. By the time he became a senior, he became quite a playmaker.”
Grier said Jones, now a redshirt freshman at Duke, is a deceptively effective runner.
“When you have a kid that long and tall, they don’t usually move that well. He falls forward and can make people miss,” he said. “He’s not going to outrun anybody, but he’s going to do a good job with his feet in the pocket escaping pressure.
“He’s got that ‘it’ factor. He made a play against us on 4th-and-8. Daniel escaped, ran for nine yards to get the first down and ultimately threw the game-winning touchdown. He’s got incredible talent and moxie. I’m not surprised he doing great.”
Jones owns Charlotte Latin’s records with 6,697 passing yards and 98 touchdowns.
“I think he can hit every spot on the field. He’s long with a big arm. He’s accurate. He was very well coached at Charlotte Latin by Larry McNulty,” Grier said. “I think the kid has tons of upside. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s mature enough to start this early. He’ll let the game come to him, but he’s the kind of kid that can make some plays when he needs to.”
Success against Jones rests on the ability of the Demon Deacon defense to pressure him and not let him establish a rhythm, Grier said.
“At any level, if you get pressure in the quarterback’s face. Our deal was to try to not let him be comfortable in the pocket and to make him move around. He’s effective back there, but he’s not a threat to pull it down and go 80,” he said. “You take your chances with putting pressure in the backfield. With it being his first ACC game, I’m sure Wake coaches will want to make sure he doesn’t get in a rhythm. If he gets in a rhythm, as with any good quarterback, they might be in for a long day.
“We wanted to keep him off balance with some good pressure and different looks — show some different coverage looks. Those are the kind of things that can be effective.”