Injured Duke defenders 'game-time decisions' on Saturday
Two players expected to contribute to Duke’s defense this season are edging closer to returning.
Linebacker C.J. France and defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo both missed Duke’s 45-0 win over N.C. Central last Saturday due to ankle injuries.
On Thursday, Duke coach David Cutcliffe said both players have progressed enough to travel with the team to Memphis, where Duke plays the Tigers at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday (4:30 p.m., ESPN3).
He cautioned, though, that both players are considered doubtful to see action in the game.
“We are going to take them and it will be a game-time (decision),” Cutcliffe said. “When I say doubtful, I mean doubtful. I want to see them in pregame warm-ups for a lot of reasons. Part of their rehab. But we’ll see what happens.”
France, a starter last season listed atop the depth chart at weak-side linebacker when practice began, injured his ankle during training camp last month. The redshirt junior played in 13 games, starting nine, last season.
Junior David Helton started in France’s place against NCCU and played 34 snaps. He assisted on seven tackles but recorded no solo stops.
“He did OK,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s like all of them, having to get back to game speed. But he played clean. I’d like to see him make more plays. He’s got a chance to make more plays. He was where he was supposed to be. He was hitting properly. He was doing a lot of things well.”
DeWalt-Ondijo had surgery in May and has been rehabilitating ever since. He has started nine career games for Duke, playing in 22 overall over the last two seasons. He was expected to add depth to Duke’s improving defensive line.
Redshirt seniors Justin Foxx and Kenny Anunike started at the defensive end slots against NCCU. Juniors Jonathan Woodruff and Dezmond Johnson backed them up.
Foxx’s play was particularly important as he had been slowed in training camp after having knee surgery in January. But he progressed in the week leading up to the season-opener and delivered three tackles (one solo).
“He looked good,” Cutcliffe said. “He played a lot of football. He didn’t show any ill effects from the injury at all.”
Including reserve offensive lineman Tanner Stone, who is out for the season with a broken ankle, Duke listed seven players as being out for the Memphis game. They are running back Eric Adams (upper body), offensive tackle Casey Blaser (hand), cornerback Jared Boyd (leg), defensive end Britton Grier (upper body), quarterback Thomas Sirk (leg) and wide receiver Jack Wise (upper body).
There is good news on Blaser’s situation, though. The redshirt freshman, who broke his hand the day after Stone broke his ankle, was on the practice field on a limited basis this week. Cutcliffe remains hopeful that Blaser could play, and add depth to the offensive line, this season.
Last Saturday, with Blaser and Stone out, Duke was still able to play eight offensive linemen in the first half against NCCU. In addition to the five starters, Lucas Patrick saw snaps in the game at three positions: left guard, left tackle and right tackle.