Duke suspends Singleton; Barnes out with broken hand
Duke will be without one freshman football player, and perhaps another, when it returns to football field this weekend.
After the team had an open date on Saturday, Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe announced Sunday that sophomore safety Deondre Singleton has been suspended for one game because he missed two academic obligations last week.
Cutcliffe also said that freshman wide receiver Johnell Barnes has a fractured hand and is out indefinitely. Barnes was injured during an altercation with another Duke athlete, sophomore men’s lacrosse player John Shaffer, just after midnight Sept. 29 at Shooters II Saloon on West Morgan Street in Durham.
The injury is preventing Barnes from practicing, Cutcliffe said.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Barnes, from Lehigh Acres, Fla., has returned 10 kicks for Duke this season, averaging 20.4 yards per return. He has played in all five games for the Blue Devils (3-2, 0-2 in ACC), catching five passes for 107 yards.
In Duke’s most recent game, a 38-31 win over Troy on Sept. 28 at Wallace Wade Stadium, Barnes caught two passes for 73 yards.
Devon Edwards is first in line to take Barnes’ kickoff return duties, Cutcliffe said, with sophomore running back Shaquille Powell also a possibility.
Singleton has played in four games, starting one, for Duke this season. His first start came against Troy, when he recorded seven tackles (five solo stops). The only game he has missed was the Sept. 7 28-14 win at Memphis. That absence was due to a leg injury.
With no Saturday game to prepare for last week, Duke practiced practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Cutcliffe said Singleton left campus early without permission.
“It’s always disappointing to have to discipline a player,” Cutcliffe said. “He will accept his discipline and learn from it and move on.”
The team learned of Singleton’s suspension on Sunday. Cutcliffe said the team captains – quarterback Anthony Boone, offensive tackle Dave Harding, cornerback Ross Cockrell and defensive end Justin Foxx – informed the other players.
Cutcliffe said the team is handling the Singleton suspension, as well as Barnes being out of practice last week, without much distraction.
“If you do things right you have your squad prepared,” Cutcliffe said. “It can be injury. It can be discipline. They know our standards around here. They didn’t bat an eye (Sunday). Our captains handled that. They gave it to the team. It really hasn’t been a distraction at all.”
Without Singleton, Duke is getting thin at safety. Another starter, Dwayne Norman, missed the Troy game with a leg injury. Cutcliffe said it’s too soon to determine Norman’s availability for this week.
Duke has the option of sliding Cockrell to safety and using someone else at cornerback to fill the openings.
As for Duke’s next opponent, Cutcliffe said all indications are Navy will be making the trip as schedule. The ongoing government shutdown has cast doubts about the service academy teams being able to continue their seasons. Other athletic teams at Air Force, Navy and Army have had to suspend play.
But Navy played Air Force in football as scheduled on Saturday, winning 28-10. Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuck told the Annapolis Capital-Gazette newspaper Saturday night that the Midshipmen should prepare to face Duke.
“We haven’t been told we can’t play; so I’m not going to create a situation that doesn’t exist,” Gladchuk told the paper. “My instincts tell me that the Department of Defense is doing everything possible to ensure the service academies meet their contractual obligations with regard to future football games. I have great confidence that we will be playing Duke in Durham as scheduled.”
Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils have never altered their game preparation.
“We continued to work on Navy,” Cutcliffe said. “We were getting good indications that the game would happen.”
Duke has played its last three games without starting quarterback Anthony Boone, who fractured his collarbone in the game at Memphis. Boone has resumed throwing the football but has not been cleared for practice.
Another injured reserve quarterback, Thomas Sirk, has been out since rupturing his Achilles’ tendon last April. Sirk had been making rapid progress, in Cutcliffe’s opinion, last month.
But on Sunday, Cutcliffe said the plan is to scale back Sirk’s work this week.
“We are going to back off some of his work,” Cutcliffe said. “We are trying to make sure that we don’t make any mistakes.”