It took half of Duke’s regular-season schedule but the team has finally felt the sting of an injury to a core player.
Left tackle Gabe Brandner, a redshirt senior from Blythewood, S.C., left last Saturday’s 28-21 loss to Virginia in the first half with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.
While he’s not been ruled out for this Saturday’s noon game with Florida State, Duke coach David Cutcliffe doesn’t sound optimistic
“I don’t think Gabe’s gonna be real good,” Cutcliffe said. “You just don’t know on healing. We’ll take it day-to-day.”
Brandner did not practice Sunday night.
Cutcliffe said Duke’s medical staff gave him a clear message about the severity of Brandner’s injury after it happened.
“It was bad enough they told me quickly he wasn’t coming back,” Cutcliffe said.
Christian Harris replaced Brandner and played the rest of the game against Virginia. Harris, a redshirt junior reserve guard, has yet to start a game for the Blue Devils. He’s played in just 26 snaps this season prior to this past Saturday.
Cutcliffe, though, said Harris earned his playing time with solid work in practice that impressed the coaching staff.
“The last two weeks of practice have been excellent for him,”’ Cutcliffe said. “He played pretty well. He took the challenge. I used him as an example of a guy who has been wanting to play more but he worked for that. Obviously he would have chosen a different circumstance. He didn’t want to play more because of Gabe’s injury. But he had gone on the practice field with a purpose over the last two weeks which I want to see more and more people doing.”
The Blue Devils (4-2, 1-2 in ACC), who are riding a two-game losing streak, have been remarkably healthy as a team. Brandner is the first starting player to suffer an injury that will place him on the team’s official injury report.