Underclassmen stepping up in wake of McDuffie’s injury at Duke

Duke’s first major football injury of the season occurred in its first full-contact scrimmage.

The news, though, it’s the usual doom and gloom.

Starting safety Jeremy McDuffie fractured his thumb last Saturday night and had surgery on Tuesday. He’s wearing a cast that keeps his thumb immobilized but still allows him to bend his elbow.

While Duke’s official news release said McDuffie is out indefinitely, Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said he’s confident McDuffie will be able to play on Sept. 2 when Duke opens the season against N.C. Central.

“It has been repaired, and he is casted,” Cutcliffe said. “At a point where there is no pain, he can play in the cast. We will protect it at all costs. But at the same time, he wants to get back out there, and we have to work to get him back out there.”

McDuffie has been out of practice this week with his surgically repaired right arm in a sling.

Duke utilizes three safeties in its 4-2-5 defensive scheme. The position McDuffie was playing, the strike safety, is the same slot Jeremy Cash played in 2015 when he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

A converted cornerback athletic enough that he runs track and participates in the triple jump for Duke in the spring, McDuffie is expected to be an impact player.

While McDuffie is sidelined, Duke is getting a good look at the depth the staff believes it has in the defensive secondary.

Freshman Michael Carter II has looked the best this week, Cutcliffe said.

“He’s probably the guy who is climbing very rapidly,” Cutcliffe said.

Sophomore Dylan Singleton, who played in 12 games as a freshman last season, is also capable of sliding over to strike. Singleton is second-string behind senior Alonzo Saxton II at the rover safety position.

Duke has redshirt sophomore Jordan Hayes starting at its bandit safety position.

Another freshman, Marquis Waters, saw playing time at safety with Duke’s second-team defense during the scrimmage last Saturday. Waters enrolled at Duke last January and went through spring practice, so he has a jump on his fellow classmates.