At noon on Sunday, Duquesne will open the 2021 spring football season at home against the Sacred Heart Pioneers. It will be the first football game for the Dukes in over 15 months, and a lot has changed in that time for the Duquesne team.
Quarterbacks Daniel Parr and Brett Brumbaugh have graduated, as has Duquesne’s all time leading rusher AJ Hines, so who will take over for 2021?
Head coach Jerry Schmitt confirmed that sophomore Joe Mischler, who transferred in from Ohio University in 2020, will be the Dukes’ starting quarterback, while Garrett Owens, a graduate transfer from Mercyhurst, will start at running back.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dukes will have to deal with Sacred Heart’s dominant rushing attack, led by former NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year Julius Chestnut. In 2019, Chestnut ran for 1495 yards and 11 touchdowns, including 128 yards and a score in a 20-6 loss to Duquesne. Schmitt discussed what it will take to slow Chestnut down.
“We’re gonna have to put a lot of guys in the box to make sure that our gaps are controlled and he doesn’t get out, because he’s extremely talented,” Schmitt said. “He could take one the distance at any time.”
Schmitt also talked about the struggles of preparation during the spring.
“Do you have an hour?” Schmitt joked in response to talking about these challenges. “I’m kidding but a little bit I’m not. Being in camp when we have classes is a huge challenge. Normal preparation gives us a couple weeks of having the kids all day long, not only from a physical standpoint of lifting and rehab and practice, but also the meeting times that we have.”
Schmitt also talked about the challenge of the weather this time of year, explaining that when the windchill goes below 15 degrees, they have to get off the field, which would never be a threat to preseason camp in August.
But through all the challenges of the spring and the pandemic, Schmitt just wants his players to have the chance to play again.
“From my personal perspective, when it’s all said and done, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world that we kicked the football off and everyone of those student athletes are out there ready to play a football game,” he said. “That’s first and foremost, meaning they’re healthy, they’ve gotten through protocols, and they’re able to play the first football game that they’ve played in probably 15 months. Competitively, we’re gonna go play Dukes football”