The offseason injury to his left Achilles heel initially seemed certain to sideline redshirt senior quarterback Thomas Sirk for at least part of Duke’s 2016 football season. But the progress reports for Sirk’s return have grown more optimistic in recent weeks, and Sirk told reporters on Thursday that he hopes to be ready for the Blue Devils’ opener against North Carolina Central on September 3.
“I started the rehab process immediately after having surgery,” Sirk said. “I continued to progress every week, every day really. Right now I'm just listening and focusing on what my trainers say. I have a great support group around me with the doctors and with my trainers. No better place I'd rather be than Duke University when something like this happens.
“As I continue to do more exercises, running, dropping back, shuffling, I just continue to listen to what they tell me to do. We'll see where I'm at when the fall camp starts.’
Sirk led Duke in rushing last season with 803 yards in addition for throwing for over 2,600 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 starts, so his absence would definitely be felt. But this is the second time the Florida native has dealt with an Achilles injury during his time at Duke, and he is believes that what once seemed the worst of misfortunes can wind up being a blessing.
“Having torn my right one in 2013, I kind of knew what to expect from the injury,” Sirk said. “I knew what the process is going to be composed of. Immediately I accepted there's nothing you can do about the injury. I had to move forward. I listened to my trainers and what they told me. They told me we could overcome this one as I did my right one. I've taken that mindset and had a positive attitude from the very beginning.
“That's one thing you can control, is control your attitude. That's what I've did. Every week I've gotten better and seen improvement.”
Whenever Sirk does make it back onto the field, head coach David Cutcliffe does not foresee his role or style of play changing.
“I've talked to our physical therapist, our doctors, our trainers,” Cutcliffe said. “Thomas is going to play and be true to the way he plays. The goal is to get him 100 percent ready to do that. As we evaluate August, we're not trying to see if he's ready to play in his first game August 8th, that's not the goal. The goal is to see if we can get him to the point for September 3rd to play like Thomas Sirk plays to be successful.
“It's their job as a medical staff – and they'll do a great job of it – to guide him, to bring him along. I'm going to trust the process as a coach and we'll see what happens.”
2015 In Review
Duke continued its resurgence under head coach David Cutcliffe, winning eight games and posting its first bowl victory since 1961, a 44-41 overtime thriller against Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl...The Blue Devils have won 27 games over the past three seasons, the most successful three-year span in Duke history...S Jeremy Cash earned unanimous first-team All-American honors and was named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and its top football scholar-athlete as winner of the Jim Tatum Award...C Matt Skura earned second-team All-American honors, while PK Ross Martin, who finished second nationally in field goals per game (2.00) and second on the ACC’s all-time scoring list (430), and S-KR DeVon Edwards, who was fifth nationally in kickoff returns, earned Honorable Mention All-American honors...Cash, Skura and Edwards were first-team All-ACC selections, while Martin and LB Dwayne Norman were second-team and P Will Monday third-team honorees.
Duke loses five starters each on offense and defense and could be missing starting QB Thomas Sirk, whose offseason Achilles injury has his fall availability in doubt...Also missing offensively are Skura, OG Lucas Patrick, WR Max McCaffrey, TE David Reeves and RB Shaquille Powell...Defensively, the Blue Devils will need to replace three members of the D-Line in DEs Kyler Brown and Deion Williams and DT Carlos Wray, as well as two of their top three leading tacklers in Cash (101 tackles) and Norman (114 hits)...Also gone is perhaps the best kicking tandem in the nation in four-year starters Martin and Monday.
The non-conference schedule gets a little tougher with Notre Dame joining Northwestern, Army West Point and N.C. Central...Five of the Blue Devils’ road opponents, the Irish, the Wildcats, Louisville, Pitt and Miami, went to bowl games a year ago.
The uncertainty surrounding Sirk, who could recover in time for the season and was Duke’s leading passer (2,625 yards) and rusher (803 yards) last year, made finding a potential replacement a spring priority...Junior Parker Boehme was impressive in his one start last fall and emerged from spring as the likely candidate, but will face competition in the fall from redshirt freshmen Daniel Jones and Quentin Harris...Ts Casey Blaser and Gabe Brandner return to key an offensive line that includes Gs Tanner Stone and Sterling Korona, with Austin Davis and Zach Harmon at center...Sophomore T.J. Rahming (43 catches) and senior Anthony Nash (32 catches) head a receiving corps that includes WRs Chris Taylor, Ryan Smith and Quay Chambers and TEs Erich Schneider, Daniel Helm and Davis Koppenhaver...Jela Duncan and speedster Shaun Wilson head the a talented RB corps...Defensively, Duke’s strength will be in the secondary, where Edwards returns and will move to CB to pair with Breon Borders....Edwards has six career kickoff return TDs, one shy of the national and ACC career mark set by Clemson’s C.J. Spiller in 2009...Deondre Singleton returns as the Bandit safety, with lettermen Corbin McCarthy, Phillip Carter, Alonzo Saxton II and Brandon Feamster competing for the other safety spots...Up front, senior DT A.J. Wolf leads a rebuilt line that includes DEs Allen Jackson, Marquies Price, Dominic McDonald and Trevon McSwain and DTs Mike Ramsay, Brandon Boyce, Edgar Cerenord and Quaven Ferguson...Ben Humphreys (31 tackles) leads at one linebacker spot over Zavier Carmichael (32 tackles), with Tinashe Bere (58 tackles) ahead of Joe Giles-Harris at the other…Redshirt freshman Austin Parker looks to step into the punting job, with incoming freshman A.J. Reed competing for the PK duties this fall.
Numbers & Notes
4 - Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has taken the Blue Devils to four consecutive bowl games, the longest such streak in school history.
4 - When Duke S Jeremy Cash was named the winner of the 2015 Jim Tatum Award as the top football scholar-athlete in the ACC, he became the fourth consecutive Blue Devil to win the honor following in the footsteps of David Helton (2014), Perry Simmons (2013) and Sean Renfree (2012). Cash, who was also voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, became the first player to win both awards in the same year in league history.
6 - Duke S DeVon Edwards has returned six kickoffs for touchdowns in his career. He is one shy of the ACC and NCAA career record of seven set by Clemson’s C.J. Spiller during the 2006-09 seasons.
8 - With the retirement of Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe becomes the dean of ACC coaches, having been hired just shortly before Georgia Tech tabbed Paul Johnson.
27 - The number of wins for Duke over the past three seasons, the most in a three-year period in school history.
48 - In his eight seasons in Durham, David Cutcliffe has led Duke to 48 wins, more victories for the Blue Devils than in the program’s previous 18 years.
40,004 - The increased seating capacity for the newly-renovated Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.