Duke running back Brittain Brown to miss rest of season

This story, first published Tuesday, has been updated with news of Brittain Brown having surgery Thursday.

Duke won’t have running back Brittain Brown available for the rest of this football season.

The junior running back had surgery to repair his injured shoulder Thursday, according to Duke news release.

The Blue Devils were already expecting to play the rest of the season without Brown.

Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said during his weekly news conference Tuesday Brown’sshoulder injury was severe enough that more invasive treatment, like a season-ending surgery,was needed.

“We’re at the point with the shoulder that we’ve got to make a decision,” Cutcliffe said on Tuesday. “It’s been a hard year for him emotionally. He had a tough year a year ago. We may go ahead and make the decision to get him repaired. Just in his best interest, certainly, that’s what you want to probably do.”

Duke (3-1, 1-0 ACC) will mainly use junior Deon Jackson and sophomore Mataeo Durant at running back in its 8p.m. Saturday game with Pittsburgh at Wallace Wade Stadium.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Brown played for just 42 snaps over three games this season while dealing with his injured shoulder. He ran the ball twice for 13 years last Friday in Duke’s 45-10 win at Virginia Tech. He re-injured his shoulder while being tackled on the second run and didn’t return to the game.

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“I’d love to have him,” Cutcliffe said. “We need him. You saw the spark he gave our team a week ago.”

As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Brown led Duke in rushing with 701 yards while averaging 5.39 yards per carry and scoring seven touchdowns

Various injuries limited him to nine games (five starts) last season. He gained 369 yards with three touchdowns and averaged 4.61 yards per carry.

Expected to team with Jackson to give Duke a potent running back tandem this season, Brown has carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards in his three games.

With Brown limited, quarterback Quentin Harris leads Duke in rushing with 303 yards (5.94 yards per carry) this season. Jackson, Duke’s starting running back, has 232 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

Durant, a 6-1, 195-pound sophomore running back, has taken advantage of the extra playing time that became available due to Brown’s injury. Durant has 122 yards on 37 carries with a touchdown this season. He has also caught nine passes for 108 yards with a touchdown.

“He’s playing really well,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s playing maybe secretly better than people realize. Keep your eye on him. He’s going to be something special.”

Deeper down the depth chart, freshmen Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters are getting running back snaps in practice to get ready to play if needed. Each has played in two games this season, meaning they can play in two more and still have the option of taking a redshirt.

Duke entered the season without redshirt sophomore running back Marvin Hubbard, who is still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon he suffered in Sept. 2018. In his three seasons with the team, Hubbard has been limited to just 59 snaps over five games.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.