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Daniel Jones Leading Duke Ahead

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Daniel Jones set 23 program records as a super-productive first-year signal caller.

Last season was a banner year for ACC quarterbacks, with Louisville's Lamar Jackson winning the Heisman Trophy, Clemson's Deshaun Watson leading the Tigers to a national championship and Mitch Trubisky rising from North Carolina to a likely first round NFL Draft pick. The play of Daniel Jones, who stepped in after Thomas Sirk went down after an off-season injury, gave Duke one of the nation's most exciting young players.

At 6'5'', 210 pounds, the Charlotte-native sat out a season before taking over as a redshirt freshman. Ultimately, Jones finished the fall with 2,836 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns, adding 486 rushing yards and seven more rushing scores. He set 23 program records as a super-productive first-year signal caller. Campus Insiders recognized Jones as an honorable mention Freshman All-American. 

Four different times, Jones was named ACC Rookie of the Week. His signature performance came on college football hallowed ground.

Jones, in just his second road game, led the Blue Devils to a 37-34 win at Notre Dame, completing 24-of-32 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. After the Fighting Irish took a one-score lead midway through the fourth quarter, Jones responded with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Dash on a quick read-option. He turned an ensuing interception into a ten-play drive and a game-winning field goal. The end result was Duke's first win ever in South Bend.

Later in the year was where Jones found more stability. Over his past seven outings, Jones threw ten touchdown passes compared to just one interception. He also had two 90-yard, multi-score rushing performances in his last four contests.

In a rivalry showdown with North Carolina, Jones outdueled Trubisky in a 28-27 upset of the Tar Heels in Durham. Jones completed 22-of-34 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown, reaching the endzone twice on the ground. A late third quarter connection with Davis Koppenhaver proved to be the game-winning score. Jones, a freshman, helped the veterans walk away in Senior Night style.      

Fittingly, Jones' final game of the season was one of his best; playing at Miami, he completed 68% of his passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Riding a very real wave of momentum, leadership, from Jones, was on display in spring practice. He will enter this fall as a proven ACC quarterback ready to move the Blue Devils forward.

There remains room for growth for Jones, who appears poised to continue his progression. A strong foundation is in place, however, traction for both he and his team.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Matt Osborne and Kevin Thomas on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network and is the sports director for multiple ESPN Radio affiliates based throughout southeast Georgia. @BJBennettSports