DURHAM, N.C. – Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe announced on Tuesday that redshirt junior running back Jela Duncan will be out of action indefinitely after suffering a partially torn right pectoral muscle during Monday’s morning practice. Cutcliffe also noted that two other running backs – redshirt sophomore Joseph Ajeigbe and sophomore Shaun Wilson – are nursing lower body injuries and are currently sidelined from contact drills.
“Just when you feel comfortable with four experienced running backs on the depth chart, three of them are in the training room,” Cutcliffe said. “Jela’s injury is obviously disappointing because we know how hard he’s worked to get back into the thick of things following the two shoulder surgeries. Joe and Shaun aren’t available right now, but neither appears to be out long term.”
The Blue Devil offensive coaching staff has shifted redshirt freshman Nicodem Pierre from quarterback to running back.
“I’m really proud of Nico and how he’s handled this situation,” Cutcliffe said. “With his unselfishness and commitment to this program, he is displaying the traits of the ultimate teammate. And I absolutely love it because it’s a great sign of the growth of our program when the young men take ownership of the organization and have the passion to contribute in any way possible.”
Duncan rushed 222 times for 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns as a two-year letterman in 2012-13 before missing the 2014 campaign. As reserves in 2014, Ajeigbe had 41 rushing attempts for 150 yards and Wilson totaled 78 carries for 598 yards. Pierre, who entered the fall as the third string signal-caller behind redshirt junior Thomas Sirk and redshirt sophomore Parker Boehme, did not see game action a season ago while serving as the primary scout team quarterback.
Additionally, junior cornerback Bryon Fields, who started all 13 games a season ago while posting 70 tackles and one interception, will miss extended time during preseason camp due to a leg injury. Sophomore Alonzo Saxton II, who appeared in eight games in 2014 and registered 12 tackles, has been the primary replacement for Fields with the first unit.
“Injuries create opportunities for others,” Cutcliffe noted. “While it is never easy to replace a starter, we’re certainly confident in the depth we’ve established. The bottom line is that our young guys have to be ready for the challenge when their number is called.”