Duke coach David Cutcliffe could field half a starting lineup with the number of players who are injured heading into Week 1.
It’s astounding, really, as 11 scholarship players will miss the season opener against FIU. Duke has previously announced most of these injuries, but the school hasn’t released its official injury report for the week yet.
“I don’t understand it,” Cutcliffe said. “I tell you, I’ve never even been close to this. We have minimally now 12 scholarship players who will be out of the first game. At the end of June, it didn’t look anything like that. July was a difficult month for us, and August has continued on the same path. Our guys are resilient; they’ve been resilient since we’ve been here. This is a resilient staff. If a group can handle it, it will be this team.”
They don’t have much of a choice. Florida International is a rising program that has been to back-to-back bowl games. A win in the season opener will be critical to the Blue Devils’ hopes of reaching the postseason. Both sides of the ball will be affected, though, as the offense will miss receiver Blair Holliday and tight end Braxton Deaver, and the defense will be without defensive tackle Jamal Bruce, safety Jordon Byas and linebacker Kelby Brown.
That’s literally, though, only the half of it:
WR Blair Holliday (suffered head injuries in a boating accident)
Defensive tackle Jamal Bruce (had foot surgery to repair a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot)
Tight end Braxton Deaver (had surgery to repair a fracture of his left patella)
S Jordon Byas (had surgery to repair a torn left meniscus)
S Taylor Sowell (ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg, will miss entire season)
LG Lucas Patrick (fractured left ankle)
S Jeremy Cash (Ohio State transfer who’s waiver to play immediately was denied by the NCAA)
TE Jack Farrell (leg surgery in the spring)
LB Kelby Brown (surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee)
Jared Boyd (ACL)
DE Allen Jackson (surgery to repair a 360-degree labral tear in his right shoulder.)
“We can’t take many more hits,” Cutcliffe said. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s made me a little more cautious at practice. I don’t have any choice. You just have to be. I told our staff, I’d like to have a little more contact, but like doesn’t have anything to do with it. Here’s our circumstances and this is what we’ve got to do. There are some challenges involved in that.”
Winning the season opener without so many key players will be the biggest challenge to date.