Just when you thought it was safe to call the Duke running back depth among the best in the ACC, another string of preseason injuries has hit the Blue Devils.
Jela Duncan, back on the team after serving a one-year academic suspension, is out indefinitely with a partially torn right pec muscle. Fellow reserves Shaun Wilson and Joe Ajeigbe are being held out of contact drills with lower body injuries. That has thinned the group essentially down to starter Shaquille Powell, who just returned to the team after mourning the death of his 7-year-old brother from cancer.
So to help bolster depth, coach David Cutcliffe has moved third-string quarterback Nicodem Pierre to running back. If there is any good news in this, it's that Wilson and Ajeigbe are not expected to be out for the long term.
"Just when you feel comfortable with four experienced running backs on the depth chart, three of them are in the training room," Cutcliffe said in a statement. "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. ...
"I'm really proud of Nico and how he's handled this situation. 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."
In addition, starting cornerback Bryon Fields will miss extended time during camp because of a leg injury.
All this comes after Duke already lost starting linebacker Kelby Brown to another torn ACL.
"Injuries create opportunities for others," Cutcliffe said. "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."