By STEVE WISEMAN
CARY — Rebuilding a Duke football program that won 10 games in the eight seasons before he arrived appeared difficult enough for David Cutcliffe.
Then, he and the Blue Devils went through the last three weeks.
Already in a tough spot coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons, Duke lost two projected starters on offense when wide receiver Blair Holliday was critically injured in a July 4 personal watercraft accident and tight end Braxton Deaver broke his left kneecap in a workout incident.
On top of those injuries, the defense lost starting linebacker Kelby Brown, who is recovering from a second torn ACL, this one suffered in February, and freshman defensive lineman Allen Jackson, who needs surgery following an offseason shoulder injury.
Holliday’s injury is the most traumatic. He remains at UNC Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit with what Cutcliffe said Thursday is a “severe brain injury.”
Entering his sixth season at Duke’s head football coach, Cutcliffe admitted natural questions have entered his mind about what may lie ahead.
“Obviously I’ve laid there and thought deeply,” Cutcliffe said Thursday at the Bill Dooley Triangle/East Chapter Pigskin Preview. “We all get into this cycle of `Why me, Lord?’ It’s not about me or us or Duke football. I think the important thing is to separate all off us from those young men’s circumstances. A severe injury, a tragic injury to a youngster who had worked so hard. I don’t think we have time to start feeling sorry for ourselves. I’ll be honest we are all over there saying `We are due some good breaks.’
“It’s been an interesting period of time that we have dealt with.”
UNC coach Larry Fedora can sympathize with Cutcliffe’s situation. In 2010, an off-campus shooting injured three of his Southern Mississippi players, leaving one paralyzed.
“I just told David, I don’t know what it is, but something good will come out of this situation,” Fedora said. “I hope it’s with that young man. If not, for us it was our football team became a much more mature team, a much closer team, the team chemistry was incredible on that team, and that’s why we won a conference championship this past year, I firmly believe that.”
Holliday’s injuries, which also include broken bones in his face, occurred on Lake Tillery in Montgomery County. Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder, piloting a personal watercraft, crashed into the left side of the personal watercraft Holliday was piloting.
Holliday’s parents have requested that no updates be released about their son’s condition.
Cutcliffe said he is complying with the family’s wishes. He did say Holliday is “fighting hard, but he’s got a huge fight ahead of him.”
Donations for the Holliday family — approved by the NCAA — are being accepted by check at the Duke football office and through an online fundraising website at http://www.giveforward.com/theblairhollidayrecoveryfund. Online donations passed the $3,000 mark on Thursday.
The fund’s organizer, Tracy Ross, said giveforward.com rules stipulate that no funds can be dispersed until the fundraising period ends on Aug. 26.
Cutcliffe said some other funds have been made available to the Holliday family. He said as far as Holliday’s recovery, it is ongoing.
“We’re going to support the Holliday family in every form or fashion we need to at Duke football while this is ongoing,” Cutcliffe said. “As far as any expectation, there is no expectation at this point. We are just supporting the Hollidays.”
Deaver could miss the entire season, Cutcliffe said, as he recovers from the fractured left patella.
An athletic tight end, Deaver could have helped Duke make up for the loss of Holliday in the passing game.
Instead, Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils will count on a committee of players, including Issac Blakeney and senior running back Desmond Scott from Hillside High School.
Crowder, who will also be a factor in the offense, refused medical treatment following the July 4 accident. He was cited for failure to take a boater safety course before operating the personal watercraft.
He’s taking the free course and, when he completes it, the charge will be waived.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Jamison,” Cutcliffe said. “Jamison is doing well. He’s in the process of completing that boating course.”
Cutcliffe said he intends to take the course as well, even though North Carolina law only requires operators 26 or younger to take it.
“They weren’t doing anything wrong,” Cutcliffe said. “But the message here is let’s understand water safety and conditions and circumstances. If I’m on the water, everyone else there (should) have a license to operate what they’re on and know the rules. It was truly a very unfortunate accident. That’s what occurred.”
Article source: HeraldSun - Duke Sports