Duke practice field doubles as triage site as flu-like symptoms strike
Whenever an illness sweeps through Duke’s football team, it’s impossible for coach David Cutcliffe not to mentally travel back to August 2009.
That’s when a swine-flu epidemic ravaged his Blue Devils, who lost their season-opening game to Richmond in what would be a 5-7 season.
This week, Cutcliffe said, as many as 15 players have missed practice with flu-like symptoms, complicating things as Duke prepares to meet Pittsburgh in an ACC game on Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL).
At this point, it’s nowhere near as bad as what happened four years ago. Still, Cutcliffe remains on edge.
“We’ve had a lot of fevers, flu-like symptoms,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve probably had intermittently 15 guys miss practice due to being really sick, not a little sick. We have a lot of them that are practicing sick. I’m hoping it will run its course as we rest up a little bit here toward the end of the week.”
As of Thursday, none of the players who are ill are expected to miss the game against Pittsburgh. That, of course, could change.
“Some of this has gone viral,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ll see.”
As for the bumps, bruises, sprains and strains common to football, it appears Duke will add depth to its defensive line while a key member of its defensive secondary has a new injury concern.
Defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo has missed Duke’s first three games while recovering from a May ankle surgery. But Cutcliffe said DeWalt-Ondijo has progressed this week and is “probable” to play.
“How much (he’ll play), I don’t know,” Cutcliffe said. “But he’s practiced this week.”
A redshirt junior, DeWalt-Ondijo has started nine games over the last two seasons. He will give Duke (2-1, 0-1 in ACC) an additional rush end with speed off the edge behind starters Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx.
In the secondary, Cutcliffe said starting safety Corbin McCarthy turned an ankle in practice this week and is questionable to play against Pitt. If the redshirt freshman is unable to play, redshirt senior Anthony Young-Wiseman would be in line for extra snaps.
Duke does expect to have freshman Deondre Singleton available this week. A reserve safety, Singleton missed last Saturday’s 38-14 loss to Georgia Tech with a leg injury. He is listed as probable on Duke’s official pre-game injury report.
Duke will remain without reserve defensive lineman A.J. Wolf, who was injured last week in practice and missed the Georgia Tech game. Wolf has a leg injury and Cutcliffe said all indications are he’ll be out for an extended period of time, likely stretching deep into October.
In the redshirt freshman’s absence, Jamal Wallace is getting more playing time behind starting nose guard Sydney Sarmiento. After not playing in the 28-14 win at Memphis on Sept. 7, Wallace was in for 16 plays against Georgia Tech.
Duke’s full injury report lists RB Eric Adams (upper body), DeWalt-Ondijo (leg) and Singleton (lower body) as probable with McCarthy as questionable.
Listed as out are offensive tackle Casey Blaser (broken hand), quarterback Anthony Boone (broken clavicle), cornerback Jared Boyd (leg), quarterback Thomas Sirk (ruptured Achilles’ tendon), WR Jack Wise (upper body) and Wolf (leg).
Offensive tackle Tanner Stone (broken leg) is the only Duke player listed as out for the season.