The area on Duke’s defense with the most uncertainty has a little more.
Koby Quansah, the Blue Devils’ returning linebacker with the most playing experience, had surgery Friday to stabilize a fractured right thumb.
The 6-1, 230-pound Quansah, a senior from Manchester, Conn., was injured in Thursday’s practice.
Duke lists him as out indefinitely. But he has not yet been ruled out for the season-opening Chick-fil-A Kickoff game with Alabama on Aug. 31 in Atlanta.
After three seasons as mostly a reserve player, Quansah is expected to start for Duke this season.
Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris, who manned the two starting linebacker positions in Duke’s 4-2-5 defensive system the past three seasons, need to be replaced this season. Humphreys exhausted his eligibility, and Giles-Harris left following his junior season for the NFL. He’s now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Quansah played in 10 games last season, starting two games. One was the Independence Bowl when Giles-Harris and Humphreys were both sidelined with leg injuries. Quansah had five tackles, including a tackle for loss, in Duke’s 56-27 win.
As a sophomore in 2017, he played in all 13 Blue Devils games with three starts.
None of Duke’s other returning linebackers have nearly as much playing experience as Quansah.
Redshirt junior Xander Gagnon is behind Quansah on the depth chart. He has 13 career tackles and has started one game.
Redshirt junior Brandon Hill and redshirt freshman Shaka Heyward are in competition for the starting job at the other linebacker slot opposite Quansah.
Hill started the final four games last season for Duke due to Giles-Harris’ injuries. He recorded 10 tackles in a 42-35 win over North Carolina and 13 tackles two weeks later in Duke’s 59-7 loss to Wake Forest.
Heyward has impressed the coaches with his work in practice. He played in 18 snaps over four games last season, allowing him to still take a redshirt season under the NCAA’s new guidelines. He shared the team’s award as most improved defensive player during spring practice earlier this year with safety Damani Neal.