Duke football needs playmakers. Jordan Moore is one, whether at QB or not

Ben McKeown
·4 min read

With Duke’s starting quarterback position battle still unsettled, one obvious thing from the first two weeks of practice is Jordan Moore will impact the offense one way or another.

Moore continues to split practice time with fellow sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard working with the first and second team.

But there are also times when the two are on the field together since Moore is also catching passes as a wide receiver, giving Duke another way to take advantage of his ability to make tacklers miss and his breakaway speed.

Mike Elko, Duke’s first-year head coach, has yet to decide if Moore or Leonard will start when the Blue Devils open their season Sept. 2 against Temple at Wallace Wade Stadium. But even when that choice is made, it’s far from final.

“However this thing shakes out,” Elko said on Aug. 5 in his only press conference since fall practice started, “there’ll be internal competition during the year, too. Like, we never want to be a program that gets stagnant. I think that the best way you stop that from happening is you have internal competition always. So I don’t imagine that it’ll really change much other than one guy will go out there first.”

At the same time, Duke needs as many playmakers on the field as possible. Winless in ACC play during the final season of David Cutcliffe’s coaching tenure last season, the Blue Devils will enter the season riding a 13-game ACC losing streak that dates back to 2020.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Moore, whom Duke has not made available for interviews this month, routinely makes plays in practice worthy of him being an important part of Duke’s plans.

Last season, he played in 10 games as a reserve. He ran for three touchdowns while averaging a healthy 5.02 yards per carry (221 yards on 44 attempts). That included a 40-yard run in Duke’s 48-17 loss at Virginia Tech and a 38-yard run when Duke lost 31-28 at Charlotte.

On those 44 rushing attempts, he forced 11 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. His overall PFF score as a runner was 71.4 with a 108.2 elusiveness score.

By comparison, Duke senior running back Mataeo Durant scored a 74.2 as a runner and 52.7 on elusiveness last season when he set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,249 yards.

Moore’s elusiveness score approaches that of Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham, who graded 110.8 and 115.3 over the last two seasons. Cunnigham rushed for 1,075 yards on 99 attempts last season.

So Moore possesses tantalizing abilities Duke’s new staff wants to utilize this season.

In the passing game last season, Moore hit on 9-of-19 attempts (47.4%) for just 95 yards. He threw a 36-yard touchdown pass in Duke’s 30-23 win over Northwestern.

In practice on Saturday, both Leonard and Moore were under center during situational drills involving red-zone plays and, later, pressurized, end-of-game scenarios.

In 7-on-7 red zone plays, Leonard completed just one of four passes with Moore making the lone catch for a touchdown.

While at quarterback, Moore went 0 for 4.

In the end-of-game setup with Duke needing a field goal, Moore completed a pass for a first down before running for another first down. He later completed a pass over the middle for another first down putting the Blue Devils in place for a successful Charlie Ham field goal.

Leonard completed 3 of 5 passes while gaining two first downs in his end-of-game situation with the Blue Devils needing a field goal. Ham missed his kick on that drive, however.

Last season, Moore lined up as a slot receiver three times under the previous staff but didn’t catch a pass.

Duke returns seniors Jalon Calhoun, Eli Pancol and Darrell Harding at wide receiver. Juniors Jontavis Robertson and Malik Bowen-Sims, along with sophomore Sahmir Hagans, are getting long looks this month, as well.

So that field is crowded as Moore gets some reps there. But Duke offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kevin Johns said that’s fine because his schemes require depth at the position.

“I’d say that we’re pretty deep at wide receiver with some guys that maybe haven’t necessarily put up tons of numbers here before but are having great camps,” Johns said Thursday. “And we want to roll as many guys on the field as we can at that position. Because we want to play with an up-tempo, tough style of offense. And so you need a lot of guys, when you do that.”

As for when the Blue Devils staff will make their choice on who QB1 will be, that is still a ways off.

“You know, we still want to roll for a while and give them every opportunity to compete,” Johns said. “Really, for us, we need some chances with it live and letting those guys play ball and feel the rush. So I think we’re a little bit a ways from that.”

A big day on that front comes Sunday when the Blue Devils hold their first scrimmage.