Duke’s Stone to miss season
Duke football has absorbed its first major injury of training camp, as reserve offensive tackle Tanner Stone is scheduled for ankle surgery today.
Duke coach David Cutlciffe said Stone suffered an ankle injury during Monday’s scrimmage and will be out the entire season.
“It’s really unfortunate, really frustrating for a really fine redshirt freshman offensive lineman prospect,” Cutcliffe said. “His spirits are good, and we’ll all be there to support him and push through a difficult rehabilitation.”
The injury to the 6-6, 290-pound Stone, who is from Dallas, complicates Duke’s offensive line plans for this season and 2014.
Stone was the primary backup at right tackle behind redshirt senior Perry Simmons, who enters his fourth season as a starter. Duke planned to get Stone playing experience this year and have him possibly take over as a starter in 2014.
His injury and recovery changes that plan.
In addition to Simmons, Duke also returns starting left tackle Takoby Cofield. Cutcliffe thought he had four tackles capable of performing well in Simmons, Cofield, Stone and redshirt sophomore Carson Ginn.
Cutcliffe mentioned redshirt freshman Casey Blaser (6-5, 280) from Charlotte’s South Mecklenburg High School as someone with a chance to get playing time in games since Stone is injured.
“The loss of Tanner gives us a new problem in the offensive line that we will have to address,” said Cutcliffe, who met with his coaching staff early Tuesday afternoon before practice to discuss options.
Duke returns four starters along its offensive line. In addition to Simmons and Cofield at tackle, guards Laken Tomlinson and Dave Harding also are back to give the Blue Devils one of the nation’s most experienced lines.
Matt Skura is a first-year starter at center.
In Monday’s scrimmage, the second-team line consisted of Ginn, Blaser and Stone rotating at the tackles with Lucas Patrick and Cody Robinson at guards and John Coleman at center.
“It’s really tough to see one of the younger kids go down,” Tomlinson said. “But right now, where we stand we have a lot of guys that can fill his spot. He’s a great athlete, but we are going to have to keep moving and keep doing what we do. Other guys are going to have to step up. I don’t think it will be a problem at all.”
Youth will be served
After watching film of Monday’s scrimmage, in which younger players were given multiple repetitions along with the first- and second-team units, Cutcliffe is encouraged about the role the freshmen will play for the Blue Devils.
“There are certainly some freshmen who are working their way into the mix,” Cutcliffe said.
Because he and the coaching staff are still evaluating, Cutcliffe wouldn’t name the players.
But he said: “You can certainly see a number of them and speculate as they are making plays.”
So far in practices and the scrimmage, cornerback Breon Borders and wide receivers Anthony Nash and Ryan Smith have stood out. Running back Joseph Ajeigbe gained 49 yards on eight attempts in Monday’s scrimmage.
“It could be as many as 10 freshmen who have a chance to play or as little as five or six,” Cutcliffe said.
Duke’s original plan with its three scrimmages was to play younger players in the first, then concentrate on schemes and depth-chart groupings in the second and third scrimmages.
“My intentions were to play everybody a bit to become more unit-oriented to see what we look like,” Cutcliffe said.
But Stone’s injury on Monday night has Cutcliffe reconsidering. Veteran players such as running back Josh Snead, wide receiver Jamison Crowder, defensive end Kenny Anunike, linebacker Kelby Brown, safety Jeremy Cash and cornerbacks Ross Cockrell and Dwayne Norman didn’t participate or were limited Monday.
Asked Tuesday if all would participate in Friday’s second scrimmage, Cutcliffe hesitated.
“I haven’t got that far yet,” Cutcliffe said. “When you lose a player like Tanner, it always gives you a weak stomach — a long night (Monday) for us coaches.”
Duke has scrimmages scheduled for Friday and next Tuesday.