Fun facts about Notre Dame's opening opponent, Duke, to amuse and confuse

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame football’s temporary one-year venture into full Atlantic Coast Conference membership figures to create some confusion along the way.

Good confusion, in that Irish players will be eligible to be named ACC Players of the Week by the conference itself this season.

Regular confusion, in that Notre Dame will play in something called the Duke’s Mayo Classic next month, but the opponent isn’t Duke. It’s Wake Forest, Sept. 26 in Charlotte, N.C.

The Irish presumably will play Duke, though, in the Sept. 12 season opener at Notre Dame Stadium, with the announcement of who and how many fans will be allowed into the 77,622-seat structure coming soon.

In the meantime, here are eight fun facts about the Blue Devils to marinate over in the next two and a half weeks that may add or subtract from the confusion factor.

New offensive coordinator

While Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made an offseason change at the position, promoting quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees to call offensive plays, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe also made a change and promoted himself.

Long-time Cutcliffe sidekick Zac Roper, who presided over the nation’s No. 114 team in total offense in 2019, remains on staff and will still coach the quarterbacks.

Cutcliffe was very briefly ND’s quarterback coach and assistant head coach in the 2005 offseason leading up to Charlie Weis’ first of five years as the Irish head coach. Cutcliffe stepped away from the job in June of that year, citing health concerns, after undergoing heart bypass surgery.

Speaking of quarterbacks

Clemson grad transfer Chase Brice is presumed to be the starter at quarterback for Duke on Sept. 12, but he’s had to work his way up the depth chart this summer.

Brice was still finishing up his academic work at Clemson in the spring and wasn’t yet enrolled at Duke to take part in the three spring practices the Blue Devils got in before COVID-18 halted all sports.

Chris Katrenick, a 6-3, 215-pound redshirt junior, initially was taking first-team reps when camp opened. He has a career .320 completion percentage in 25 attempts covering seven career games.

So how good is Brice, formerly Trevor Lawrence’s backup?

Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 130 projected starting QBs in the FBS, whether that team and or player had opted out of fall football. Brice came in No. 28 overall and fourth among Irish opposing QBs.

Two QBs who the Irish face in November are in the top 5: Clemson junior Trevor Lawrence is No. 1, and North Carolina sophomore Sam Howell is No. 4.

Notre Dame grad senior Ian Book ranks 17th.

Here’s the entire opposing QB rankings: 1. Lawrence (Clemson). 4. Howell (North Carolina), 22. Micale Cunningham (Louisville), 28. Brice (Duke), 33. Kenny Pickett (Pitt), 37. Sam Hartman (Wake Forest), 61. Former ND QB Phil Jurkovec (Boston College), 79. James Blackman (Florida State), 99. Tommy DeVito (Syracuse) and 126. James Graham (Georgia Tech).

If the Irish add a Sept. 19 non-conference game with South Florida, Bulls QB Jordan McCloud ranks No. 82.

Among ND’s six opponents who have dropped off its original schedule, USC’s Kedon Slovic was the highest ranked at No. 7.

Speaking of quarterbacks II

Duke is one of nine FBS schools so far to have offered a scholarship to Arch Manning, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound quarterback who will begin his sophomore season at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans on Labor Day Weekend.

And yes, he is one of those Mannings.

Cutcliffe in fact, was Arch’s uncle Eli’s head coach at Ole Miss and tutored uncle Peyton at Tennessee when Cutcliffe was the offensive coordinator/QBs coach there.

Arch’s father, Cooper, was a promising wide receiver prospect who signed with Ole Miss out of high school but saw his college career end before it started due to spinal stenosis.

247Sports lists the grandson of former New Orleans Saints/Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning as the No. 5 overall prospect nationally in the 2023 recruiting class.

Co-existing with COVID-19

With nearby North Carolina recently sending its students home for the semester shortly after it started and NC State announcing Wednesday it will be doing the same beginning Friday due to COVID-19 outbreaks, Duke has so far avoided a surge with students back on campus.

It should be noted that Duke allowed only freshmen and sophomores to attend on-campus classes this semester, with juniors and seniors limited to on-line options until at least spring semester.

Duke, which updates its coronavirus dashboard once a week instead of daily, reported 22 new COVID-19 cases last week as students moved into residence halls and started in-person classes.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, had its best day since university president Rev. John Jenkins on Aug. 18 issued an edict and ultimatum that shifted classes to remote learning until at least Sept. 2.

The positivity testing rate during a three-day stretch (Aug. 17-19) sandwiching Jenkins’ announcement was 24.3%, 33.5% and 24.2%, respectively. On Wednesday, the positivity rate was 3.1% — 13 positives among 413 total tests.

Sept. 2 remains the assumed day of reckoning when Jenkins will reinstate on-campus classes, extend remote learning or send the students home for good.

Cardboard contingent

Duke will play in front of an empty stadium, sort of, when the Blue Devils return home for a Sept. 19 date with Boston College.

Kevin White, Duke’s current athletic director and Jack Swarbrick’s predecessor at ND, is open to fans at Wallace Wade Stadium later in the season if conditions and local health regulations dictate that would be safe to do.

But for the BC game the best fans can do is submit photos of themselves to have a cardboard cutout created for them at the cost of $95 for the general public and $50 for students.

Former ND quarterback Phil Jurkovec will be making his second trip to Duke in as many years. The projected BC starter didn’t throw a pass but rushed three times for 24 yards Nov. 9 in closing out a 38-7 Irish rout of the Blue Devils.

Opt-outs

While Notre Dame has yet to have a player opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Duke so far has had four do so.

The biggest loss is redshirt senior linebacker Brandon Hill, a projected starter. The others are backup offensive lineman Jacob Rimmer, cornerback-turned-running back Myles Hudzick and long snapper Ben Wyatt.

Man on the edge

Duke’s best player is a defensive end with one career start to his credit. But Chris Rumph II puts up big numbers anyway, and the NFL scouts have taken notice of the 6-foot-3, 235-pound redshirt junior.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranks Rumph as the No. 34 overall prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Rumph’s 13.5 sacks matched Irish rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s team-leading total. And his 6.5 sacks were one more than Owusu-Koramoah and Khalid Kareem recorded in tying for the ND team lead.

History lesson

The last time Duke visited Notre Dame Stadium, the Blue Devils amassed 208 rushing yards and 498 total yards in a 38-35 upset of the Irish in 2016. One day later, head coach Brian Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder four games into his third season with the Irish.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, on the sideline before a game against Notre Dame Nov. 9 at Wallace Wade Stadium, will be calling the offensive plays this season.
NFL scouts have taken notice of Duke’s Chris Rumph II, who sacks Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara (10) in a Sept. 14, 2019, game at MTSU.