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Former QB Nico Pierre catching on quick for Duke at RB

Duke coach David Cutcliffe has been impressed with former quarterback Nico Pierre's transition to running back. AP Photo/Gerry Broome

Duke entered fall camp with perhaps the best running back depth in the ACC. Two weeks later, that depth disappeared, in the form of three injuries.

But what has transpired since has invigorated David Cutcliffe and his staff, as they have watched redshirt freshman quarterback Nico Pierre take on a new role in the backfield to compensate for all the wounded Blue Devils.

"We had five quarterbacks on scholarship," Cutcliffe said. "The two true freshmen had really learned quickly, doing extremely well, neither one of them built to be a running back. So Nico was the obvious choice and he was very unselfish in that transition, and it is tough."

Yes, changing positions to expedite playing time is nothing new. But when the position left behind is quarterback? And when said former QB was a four-star prospect and the nation's No. 14 dual-threat signal-caller out of hotbed Miami? Well, this is different, but Pierre's attitude has been everything Cutcliffe hoped for.

"He's put himself completely into it," the eighth-year Duke coach said. "I've been extremely impressed with what he's done. I think honestly every day he's getting closer to being able to play that position in a ballgame, and that's pretty startling to do that that quickly."

Pierre had previously been slated as Duke's No. 3 signal-caller -- behind Thomas Sirk and Parker Boehme -- after a year running the scout team. His 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, combined with his knowledge of the offense, made him the ideal man for the move after injuries to backs Jela Duncan, Joseph Ajeigbe and Shaun Wilson.

As for whether Pierre may find himself back at his natural position before long, Cutcliffe has taken the approach that the running back room is Pierre's home until proven otherwise, lest he sacrifice meaningful quarterback reps for a simple quick fix.

"I said, No. 1, we're gonna give this an opportunity to be real, and to do that you've got to be in it, so if you're not in it, let me know," Cutcliffe said. "I said (we) don't ever make a decision change just to get practice reps, that's not fair to you. So we're making a move. If you can be a great player there, more likely you'll never go back. Now if it's the other reaction, we'll find quickly that you can't, you have no chance to be a running back, then we certainly will move you back to quarterback. But you can't move to be moving temporarily, it just doesn't work that way at all."