The Duke Blue Devils are coming off the most successful season in school history in 2013, winning 10 games and being crowned ACC Coastal Division Champion. Now, Duke sets its sights on maintaining that success in 2014 with a veteran-heavy roster and a schedule that sets up very nicely. But their path to sustained success got a lot tougher this week when linebacker Kelby Brown was lost for the year with a torn ACL.
Brown emerged as one of the leaders of this Duke team in 2013, finishing the year with 114 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, eight quarterback pressures, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He was an All-ACC selection last season and was named to the preseason All-ACC team this fall and was the unquestioned leader of Duke’s defense. In his place, Duke will turn to junior Deion Williams to fill the starting linebacker role, which will be a huge leap in responsibility for a linebacker who had just 17 tackles a year ago.
This news is especially tough for Brown because it’s not the first time he’s lost a season to a knee injury. In 2012, the linebacker was sidelined for the entire year when he tore the ACL in his other knee. He rehabbed from that, working his way back into playing shape, and had one of the best seasons for any defender in the ACC in 2013. Now, he faces the same challenge again to rebuild his game after getting his knee surgically repaired.
While Brown will be eligible for sixth year of eligibility if he applies for one, that will not help Duke in 2014. With the pressure on to prove that their program is for real, will the loss of their defensive leader prevent the Blue Devils from repeating their success this season?