Duke looks to Reeves, Schneider to replace injured tight end
The shock of losing starting third-team all-ACC tight end Braxton Deaver to a season-ending knee injury earlier this week came down hard on Duke’s football team.
It didn’t take long, however, for the offense to begin feeling somewhat normal since the Blue Devils had been there before.
Deaver, the Duke’s second-leading receiver in terms of catches and receiving yards last season, missed the 2012 season with three injuries.
He also wasn’t around the team over the summer while the players held self-practice sessions with no coaches present. Deaver’s absence, due to an undisclosed disciplinary situation, continued for the first five days of practice earlier this month.
Because of that, he missed the team’s first scrimmage.
During that time, David Reeves worked with the first-team offense at tight end. A redshirt junior, Reeves started all 13 games in 2012 when Deaver was out with knee and thumb injuries.
Redshirt sophomore Erich Schneider has also seen his practice repetitions increase, just as he did while Deaver was not with the team.
“Those are the two guys I worked out with all summer,” Duke starting quarterback Anthony Boone said.
All of that softens the blow of losing a second veteran, productive player for the season. Redshirt senior linebacker Kelby Brown is also lost for the season to a torn ACL suffered this month.
Deaver caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns last season. Reeves has 21 career catches, with 18 of them coming in 2012 when he was the full-time starter.
Schneider caught one pass as a freshman in 2012 before redshirting last season.
Still, Duke won’t be drastically altering its offense. There may be more four-receiver sets with no tight end used, but Duke’s depth at wide receiver may have seen those sets used anyway.
The goal of posting another winning season and going to a bowl game for a third consecutive year remains alive.
“When it happened everybody was down,” Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder said of Deaver’s injury. “That’s one of our main weapons in our offense and on our team. But I think since it has happened and we’ve have a few days to practice and go out there, we know the boat still has to go.”
Reeves had been working as Deaver’s backup in preparation for being the starting tight end in 2015 when Deaver’s eligibility had been exhausted. Things changed last Monday when Deaver was injured in practice.
“I hate it came under these conditions,” Reeves said. “But we were always in competition for that spot. I just want to do it justice.”
Reeves knows the offensive playbook and has playing experience. He even caught a touchdown pass in Duke’s 52-48 Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Texas A&M last Dec. 31 in the Georgia Dome.
What he doesn’t have yet is an intangible that took years to develop. Boone and Deaver are roommates and were teammates all the way back in middle school in the Charlotte area.
That gave them, and Duke, an edge when things got messy on the field.
“A lot of stuff that me and Deaver were connected on would be a feel thing,” Boone said. “If something broke down he’d feel where I’d want him to be. That’s one of the things you can’t practice unless you are in games.”
Boone — and Deaver — will work with Reeves and Schneider on those things.
“When the time comes if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to work out,” Boone said, “that’s why we have film.”
Catching passes is just one part of the job. Deaver was also a big help in the blocking schemes.
“The fact that we do a lot of stuff off the ball, I would say that’s important,” Reeves said. “But I would also say the catching aspect is also important. So I would say it’s 50-50 in terms of me being able to execute those things, as far as just playing a complete game. That’s what I want to do. You are not guaranteed to get the ball so you want to make sure that you are doing everything right even when you don’t get the ball.”