Duke's Deaver done for season

Aug. 18, 2014 @ 04:15 PM

A tough preseason got even worse Monday for Duke’s football team.

Starting tight end Braxton Deaver, the team’s second-leading receiver last season, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that will sideline him for the season.

Deaver’s injury comes exactly one week after redshirt senior linebacker Kelby Brown, an all-ACC player, also tore an ACL and saw his season come to an end.

Deaver was injured in practice on Monday morning. An MRI exam was taken and Duke announced the dire results Monday afternoon.

“This certainly seems redundant after Kelby’s injury last week, but again our thoughts and prayers lie with Braxton and his family with this news,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.  “While we’ll miss his presence on the field, the priorities with Braxton right now shift to his health and spirit. We do know that Braxton will continue to be a valued member of our program going forward.”

The 6-5, 240-pound Deaver caught 46 passes for 600 yards last season, second in both categories for Duke. He was considered a prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft class.

This is the second torn ACL Deaver has suffered during his Duke career. He missed the 2012 season due to multiple injuries, including a torn ACL in his left knee.

Deaver also had surgeries that year for a left thumb fracture and a fractured left patella (kneecap).

Despite that, he worked his way back to play a key role in Duke’s 10-4 season in 2013 that established a school record for most wins in a season.

He scored Duke’s first touchdown of the 2013 season, catching a 3-yard pass from Brandon Connette in a 45-0 win over N.C. Central. That was one of four touchdown receptions for Deaver last season.

His season-high total of catches in a game came in the 27-25 win at North Carolina that clinched the ACC Coastal Division championship for Duke. Deaver caught seven passes for 65 yards that day at Kenan Stadium.

In the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M at Atlanta on Dec. 31, Deaver caught six passes for a team-best 116 yards.

Deaver missed the first five days of Duke’s practice this month for an undisclosed disciplinary reason. Since he was behind on the acclimatization process, he was held out of the team’s first scrimmage on Aug. 11.

That, coincidentally, was the day Brown suffered a torn ACL which has ended his season.

Deaver did participate in Duke’s second and final preseason scrimmage last Friday at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Since enrolling at Duke in 2010, Deaver has already sat out two full seasons. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2010 before missing the 2012 season with his various injuries.

Because of that, he’s already lost one season of eligibility. This would have been only his third year on the field for the Blue Devils.

In order to play college football in 2015, Deaver would have to recover physically and successfully appeal the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility. A positive outcome is not guaranteed, though, because he was a healthy redshirt in 2010.

As for Duke’s offense this season, the Blue Devils have redshirt junior David Reeves available as well as a number of lesser experienced tight ends.

An Academic All-ACC selection, Reeves started in 2012 when Deaver was out. That season, Reeves caught 18 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns while starting all 13 games. Duke went 6-7, playing in its first bowl game since 1994.

Last season, as a reserve, Reeves caught three passes for 38 yards. But one of his catches went for a 21-yard touchdown play against Texas A&M.

When Deaver was out of practice earlier this month, Reeves worked with the first-team offense again. Younger tight ends such as redshirt sophomore Erich Schneider and true freshman Davis Koppenhaver have received additional practice repetitions.

Redshirt sophomore Dan Beilinson is also injured and is out indefinitely.

Deaver’s loss only adds to the growing list of players Duke is missing from last season who had eligibility for this season.

Running back Jela Duncan was leading the team in rushing in December when he was declared academically ineligible for the 2014 spring and fall semesters.

Connette, who accounted for 27 touchdowns (13 passing, team-high 14 rushing), transferred to Fresno State to be closer to his ailing mother, who has cancer.

Brown had 114 tackles last season and was considered among the ACC’s top defenders. Now Deaver joins the group.

Three seniors from last year’s team, cornerback Ross Cockrell (Buffalo), defensive end Kenny Anunike (Denver) and running back Juwan Thompson (Denver), are active in NFL training camps this month.