How Clemson QB Chase Brice decided Duke would be his new school

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Chase Brice visited but one college campus as he looked for a place to complete his college career.

Leaving a Clemson program he had fully committed to helping win national championships wouldn’t be easy.

But the former Tigers quarterback said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s advice about Duke coach David Cutcliffe, his own friendships with a host of Duke players from his Georgia home and something he remembered about Duke’s offense from 14 months ago made the difference for the Blue Devils.

When he arrived on campus last Friday, Brice had a good feeling Duke would be his new college football home.

Once he sat down for a one-on-one meeting with Cutcliffe, he knew.

“It really opened my eyes that that was the place,” Brice told the News & Observer in a phone interview. “I had just seen how much they wanted me. That was the difference from the other teams out there. I probably knew going into that weekend that if everything went well I was ready to commit.”

Brice did just that on Sunday, posting his commitment to join Duke as a graduate transfer on Twitter about an hour before Super Bowl LIV kicked off.

He’ll graduate from Clemson in May and then head to Durham to start graduate school at Duke with two seasons of college eligibility remaining.

Brice is already familiar with Duke’s offense and, of course, is excited to play for Cutcliffe, renowned as a quarterback guru for his work coaching retired NFL quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning as collegians as well as current New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones at Duke.

“I think it’s a very quarterback-centric and quarterback friendly offense,” Brice said. “It’s like a car. They hand you the keys and put a great plan together and it is your job to go execute and make the right plays. They put a lot on you and you can switch to the right play if you don’t see the current play working out.”

Cutcliffe is confident Brice will make the Blue Devils better. Duke went 5-7 last season, missing a bowl game for just the second time in the last eight seasons. Quentin Harris started all 12 games but has exhausted his eligibility.

That left Duke with redshirt junior Chris Katrenick, redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holmberg and freshman Luca Diamont as scholarship quarterback options for this season.

Brice, who backed up Trevor Lawrence at Clemson the last two seasons, changes that in a big way.

“Chase, I think, is a great fit for what we do here,” Cutcliffe said. “I think he’s going to come in and compete like crazy to try to win the position.”

Brice has respected Duke’s offense ever since the Blue Devils played at Clemson in November 2018. The Tigers, on their way to an unbeaten season and a national championship, won 35-6. But Brice heard something from Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables that week that stuck with him.

“Talking to Coach V in the week leading up to that game,” Brice said, “they said it was one of the tougher schemes to get ready for. That said a lot.”

Leaving Clemson, the school he chose out of Grayson High School in suburban Atlanta, wasn’t easy for Brice. After redshirting in 2017, he saw Lawrence arrive in 2018 and take over the Tigers offense.

Brice got enough playing time to convince Cutcliffe he can run Duke’s offense well, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to win a starting job over an all-ACC quarterback like Lawrence.

Brice accelerated his academic schedule to finish his undergraduate work this May and began searching for a place where he’d have a chance to start for his final two years of eligibility.

Mississippi State and Purdue were intriguing, he admitted. But Duke had intangibles those schools couldn’t touch.

One of those factors started with Swinney.

“He knew I was ready to go perform at a high level,” Brice said. “He really liked Duke for a spot for me. He respects Coach Cut tremendously and thought it would be a great fit.”

Brothers Will and John Taylor and Jalon Alexander, three current Duke players who previously played at Grayson High School, gave Brice insight he trusted. Brice also knows a host of other players from his home county of Gwinnett who are Blue Devils, like running back Deon Jackson, defensive end Drew Jordan and cornerback Josh Blackwell.

“What really sold me on Duke was obviously the opportunity to go in and play under a great coach like coach Cutcliffe,” Brice said. “But ultimately it was the people that led me to Duke. I’m so used to having a great coaching staff, teammates and all of that from high school to college at Clemson -- the family feel. When I got to hang out with the guys and hang out with the coaches, it just felt like home.”

Unable to participate in spring practice at Duke since he’s still a Clemson student this semester, Brice has already studied plenty of Duke game footage. He will be able to take mental repetitions while watching any of Duke’s spring practices he’s able to attend.

Since Brice has officially signed his financial aid papers to start graduate school at Duke, Cutcliffe said information can be shared with him about Duke’s offense. And Brice can attend team meetings remotely via video calling services.

Though the other quarterbacks will be participating in spring practice, Brice will have a chance to be mentally ready for Duke’s system when he arrives this summer.

“A big part of it is where is Chase going to be when he walks in the door,” Cutcliffe said. “I think basically from being around him, he’s going to have a great amount of knowledge if not know everything we are doing.

“One of the things I like the most about Chase Brice is he’s a football junkie. He’s a mature guy. It’s important to him.”

Brice got to know Duke’s coaches back in high school. His meeting with Cutcliffe last weekend on campus reinforced his thought that he’d finish his career with the Blue Devils.

“It was very comfortable,” Brice said. “He’s a great guy, a great person before a coach. He really cares for his players. You can see just by talking to him and listening to his staff.

It’s easy to communicate. When I sat down with Coach Cut, it was like we’ve known each other for five years. That’s really what it’s like.”

The 6-2, 230-pound Brice played 25 games at Clemson, completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 1,023 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

Cutcliffe is taking over play-calling duties for Duke’s offense, which hasn’t averaged 30 points a game for a season since 2015.

Together, they have big things planned for the Blue Devils.

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