As Monday’s depth chart reveal makes waves due to some some surprising choices by Brian Kelly and co., let’s not forget that Duke beat the Irish to the punch, naming Chase Brice, formerly Trevor Lawrence’s backup over at Clemson, its week one starting QB. It makes sense that Brice would be the last man standing out of the Blue Devils’ three-man quarterback competition (Chris Katrenick and Gunnar Holmberg were also-rans; why is every Duke QB named like they were born to be a Duke QB?). The Georgia native was a borderline three/four-star recruit out of high school, but saw action in 25 games and performed capably for the Tigers.
Of course, backing up college football’s lushest-haired, biggest-name quarterback means seeing mostly mop-up duty. Despite entering the 2018 season as a third-string contributor, though, Brice did manage to secure his place in Clemson lore. With former starter Kelly Bryant in transfer portal limbo, and Lawrence sidelined in concussion protocol, Brice stepped in against Syracuse facing a ten-point deficit with about 13 minutes remaining. Clemson cut the lead to a field goal, eventually got the ball back inside their own ten, and Brice helped engineer the game-winning march down the field (I hesitate to say he led the march down the field, because that accolade is reserved for Travis Etienne). Brice’s fourth down completion into Orange territory was undoubtedly one of the most meaningful single plays in a season that ended with a Tiger title. Let’s hear what famously normal and calm man Dabo Swinney had to say about Brice:
I’m telling y’all, this kid can play! I’m not surprised. We recruited him — he was one of the top 15 quarterbacks in the country! Won a state championship. He’s got a lot of swag. A lot of moxie. He can sling it!
Okie dokie, so we’re up against swag and moxie, got it. That moxie translates into the 6’3”, 230 pound Brice being a threat out of the backfield — he’s only carried the ball 30 times, but for an average of over 6 YPA, and does not shy away from contact, as shown in that season-saving drive linked above. Apparently he broke a 23 yard run against the Irish in the Cotton Bowl later that year that I, mercifully, have no recollection of.
It’s hard to get too accurate of a read on any player when they’re almost entirely relegated to garbage time; Brice has seemingly not participated in a loss at the collegiate level, and excluding that close call vs. ‘Cuse, the average margin of victory in games he’s statistically impacted is…40. Four-zero. That being said, he was certainly a valuable backup, hitting on 60% of his passes for 7.5 YPA, with 9 TDs to 4 INTs.
Brice won the starting job despite being unable to participate in spring practice, on account of still being enrolled at Clemson during that time. The receiving corps is relatively young and unproven (Duke’s two leading pass catchers against the 2019 Irish were at tight end and running back, and the offense barely managed to generate 100 yards through the air). Brice, though, brings an immediate sense of competency to the Blue Devil offense, even if he’s only had to prove his mettle once on Saturdays. The good news? He’s 0-2 passing against Notre Dame.