Helton solid in 1st scrimmage after replacing Duke's star MLB
Duke’s second preseason scrimmage saw a veteran linebacker in a new spot, a veteran tight end back on the field and the continued absence of a projected starter on the offensive line on Friday.
The Blue Devils went through 80 plays at Wallace Wade Stadium, where they’ll open the season in two weeks against Elon (Aug. 30, 6 p.m.).
Among the notable things was the play of senior linebacker David Helton, who has been forced to slide over from weak-side linebacker to middle linebacker after all-ACC linebacker Kelby Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury on Monday.
The ACC leader in tackles with 133 last season, Helton was by all accounts comfortable and competent on Friday.
“David Helton was the leading tackler in the ACC for a reason,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
Helton has been working at middle (or Mike in football terminology) linebacker this week while redshirt senior C.J. France is taking a lead role at weak-side (Will) linebacker. Deion Williams, Chris Holmes, Zavier Carmichael and Tinashe Bere are also vying for playing time.
Helton said he visited Brown at Duke Hospital, where he is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, on Thursday night. Brown has vowed to still be around the team helping in any way he can.
“I told him `I need you back. Help me on his stuff,’ ” Helton said. “I’m telling you he’s a brain on this stuff.”
Of course, Helton is a three-time Academic All-ACC selection himself.
“David is very intelligent,” Duke linebackers coach Jim Collins said. “David is a 3.75 student at Duke. This is not his first rodeo. He has numerous starts and almost 2,000 snaps that he’s played. So he’s seen a lot of football. I’m not concerned at all now with him moving in there because a lot of the fundamentals that happen with that position I teach them both to play it anyway.”
On the other side of the ball, Braxton Deaver was glad to simply be back on the field and playing The redshirt senior tight end appeared in his first full-pad, full-contact scrimmage of the season on Friday. He missed the first week of practice while being held out for disciplinary reasons.
Deaver didn’t disclose what happened, but admitted he made a mistake and is in the process of making up for it to his teammates and coaches.
“I made a mistake and I’m thankful to coach Cut and his program for being my family and taking me back so I can make strides,” Deaver said. “I owe it to my team. Every time I walk on the field I want to make the play for this team regardless of circumstances. I definitely feel I’ve really got something to give to this team and I want to be that guy and give that much leadership and that energy to the field every single day.”
Duke continues to play without Lucas Patrick.
The projected starting left guard, Patrick remains sidelined while being treated for concussion symptoms after he took a blow to the head. Patrick, a redshirt junior, is expected to step in to replace David Harding at left guard. Harding completed his career last season.
Cutcliffe said he is at the mercy of the medical staff as to when Patrick will be able to return to practice. He has missed both scrimmages and has not taken part in a full-pad, full-contact practice this season.
“This day and time, instead of a prognosis it’s more of a protocol,” Cutcliffe said.
As he did on Monday, redshirt junior Cody Robinson worked with the first-team offense at left guard in place of Patrick.
FRESHMEN IN PLAY
A number of true freshmen are getting playing time in scrimmages with most of the repetitions coming at cornerback, linebacker, running back and wide receiver.
In the secondary, cornerbacks Zach Muniz and Alonzo Saxton were on the field with hybrid groups of first and second-team defenders on Friday.
Cutcliffe said they will be playing this season, rather than redshirting, since they are also part of special-teams units At running back, Shaun Wilson has done enough for Cutcliffe to say that he will be part of the running back rotation this season with senior Josh Snead, junior Shaquille Powell and redshirt freshman Joe Ajeigbe.
“He’s going to be in the rotation,” Cutcliffe said of Wilson. “I have in my mind him playing.”
Wilson impressed by converting a third-down play into a first down. The offense scored a touchdown later on that drive.
Wide receiver Chris Taylor saw some important action on Friday as did quarterback Nico Pierre.
Powell took part in the scrimmage after sitting out last Monday’s scrimmage due to concussion symptoms. He was cleared medically to return this week….Tanner Stone and Casey Blaser shared repetitions at right tackle with first-team offense. One of those two will be the new starter at right tackle following Perry Simmons’ graduation….The coaching staff did a lot of mixing and matching at defensive line with the first-team defense. Jonathan Jones, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, Dezmond Johnson and Britton Grier shared time at defensive end with the first-team defense. In the middle, Mike Ramsay got some looks at defensive tackle along with veterans Jamal Bruce, Jamal Wallace, Carlos Wray and A.J. Wolf.