For the second week in a row, Duke has lost a starter to injury.
Monday it was tight end Braxton Deaver, Duke’s second-most productive receiver last season. Deaver, a redshirt senior, tore his right ACL in practice and will not play this season.
This is the third full season Deaver has missed in his time at Duke – he was a healthy redshirt his freshman year, and he missed all of 2012 with a variety of injuries (a torn left ACL in January, a left thumb fracture in June and a broken left kneecap in July). Because he has missed two seasons because of circumstances beyond his control, he will have a strong case to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, if he chooses to do so.
Last Monday, the Blue Devils lost starting linebacker – and best defender – Kelby Brown to a torn ACL. Unfortunately for Duke, this week started with a sense of déjà vu, too.
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“This certainly seems redundant after Kelby’s injury last week, but again our thoughts and prayers lie with Braxton and his family with this news,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in a statement. “While we’ll miss his presence on the field, the priorities with Braxton right now shift to his health and spirit. We do know that Braxton will continue to be a valued member of our program going forward.”
Deaver, a graduate of Charlotte’s Providence High, was a third-team All-ACC choice in 2013 with 46 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns, all totals that ranked second among conference tight ends (behind North Carolina’s Eric Ebron in yards and catches and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary in touchdowns). Deaver had multiple receptions in every game last season, including six for a career-high 116 yards in Duke’s 52-48 loss in the Peach Bowl.
With Deaver out for the first week as he completed a suspension, and then not in full pads until the middle of last week, backup tight end David Reeves had been working with the starters. Reeves, a redshirt junior, is now a full-time starter. His 2013 season highlight also came against Texas A&M, when he caught a 21-yard pass and tip-toed down the sideline for a fourth-quarter touchdown. On the season, Reeves caught three passes for 38 yards.
The personnel losses are starting to pile up. Since the end of the 2013 regular season, the Blue Devils have lost their top rusher (Jela Duncan, academic suspension), top touchdown producer (Brandon Connette, transfer), best defender (Brown, injury) and now second-most productive receiver (Deaver, injury).
During their historic run to the ACC Coastal Division crown, the Blue Devils sustained serious injuries only at quarterback, but they were well equipped to handle that with Anthony Boone and Connette. This year – with the start of the regular season still nearly two weeks away – it has been a different story.