When he put in the tape and started watching last week’s Duke-North Carolina game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was surprised with what he saw from Blue Devils’ quarterback Daniel Jones.
“He is a nightmare,” Swinney said to ESPNU radio host Mark Packer Thursday.
Jones put up 547 yards against the Tar Heels, including 186 rushing yards, a record for a Duke quarterback.
This Saturday, Jones will try to do something no Duke quarterback has done since David Bennett in 1980, come into Death Valley and beat second-ranked Clemson. The problem is, the junior quarterback got the Tigers’ attention with his performance against North Carolina last week.
“We have not played Duke since 2012 and we have not had a lot of crossover tape with Duke, so I put the tape in and I usually start from their last game and I go from there,” Swinney said. “But I am watching this Duke-North Carolina game and I could not believe what I was seeing.
“This kid was unbelievable. This kid is huge. First of all, he is a 6-5, 220-pound quarterback, but he rushed for 186 yards. I’m talking a 72-yard run, 50-yard run and he is pulling away from guys. He is not explosive latterly, but when he gets going, this guy can leave you. He has legit track speed straight ahead.”
Jones is mostly known for his ability to throw the football, not run it. Though he has rushed for 327 yards this year and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, he ranks third in the ACC in passing yards per game (243.5). He is fourth in completion percentage (61.0) and fourth in touchdown passes (16).
“He is incredibly accurate. He is very strong armed,” Swinney said. “I just kept watching him and kept watching him and I am like, ‘Oh my Lord!’ He is very knowledgeable and is obviously very well coached with (head coach David Cutcliffe). He is a pro. He is going to be a high pick in the draft for sure.
“I did not know a whole lot about him prior to our preparation for him, but I tell you what, he got my attention really quick and he got our team’s attention. This is a very talented quarterback with good veteran receivers and good tight ends and they have an excellent scheme that features him. Everything goes through the quarterback.”
Duke (7-3, 3-3 ACC) is averaging 419.8 yards and 31.3 points per game. The Blue Devils average 245.6 yards per game through the air and 174.2 on the ground.
“Their running back (Deon Jackson) is averaging five and a half yards per carry,” Swinney said. “But they are going to throw the football to try and set up the run.
“This will be as big of a challenge, just a different type of challenge than what we saw last week at Boston College.”