Kansas State is down another starter, as defensive end Khalid Duke will be out for the rest of the 2021 campaign because of a season-ending leg injury, head coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday.
Duke joins starting quarterback Skylar Thompson on the sideline as No. 25 K-State prepares for this week’s Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State.
A junior from Atlanta, Duke left in the second quarter of last week’s win over Nevada and did not return. Trainers helped Duke off the field, as he couldn’t put weight on his left foot. He had not accumulated any stats in Saturday’s victory prior to exiting.
“Khalid is going to be done for the year,” Klieman said during his weekly press conference Tuesday. “He had a lower-leg injury. We’re sorry to hear, because Khalid is a really good football player.”
Duke was not included on the team’s updated depth chart, which was released Monday; sixth-year senior Bronson Massie now is listed as the starting defensive end opposite Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
Nate Matlack, a redshirt freshman who had a standout showing against the Wolf Pack, is listed as Massie’s backup.
On the season, Duke had six tackles (two for loss) and two sacks, the latter mark ranking second on the team to Anudike-Uzomah’s three.
Teammates were disappointed Duke wouldn’t be able to add to those totals for the rest of the fall.
“It’s tough,” senior safety Ross Elder said. “He’s such an exciting player, as you guys can see. We all knew that. We’ve known that for a few years. He’ll get back. His recovery will be tough, but he’s built for that. I’ll be excited to see how that recovery goes for him.”
Fellow senior Cody Fletcher was equally crestfallen.
“That kid has put a lot of work into this season,” said Fletcher, who has started six consecutive games at linebacker dating back to last season, including all three contests in 2021. “It was going to be a really big season for him. It hurts a lot, because that kid is really close to me. He’s a really good player for us.”
Few took the news harder than fourth-year junior cornerback Ekow Boye-Doe, who noted Duke is one of his “closest friends” on the team.
“It’s tough seeing him go down — or seeing any player go down on our team,” Boye-Doe said. “He’s a great player, as we all know. But he’ll get back. He’ll get back right.”
Boye-Doe said he had conversed with Duke since the latter learned he wouldn’t be able to suit up again this season.
Not surprisingly, Duke hasn’t found it easy to remain positive with his season brought to a premature end.
“(It’s) definitely tough on him,” Boye-Doe said, “just because he loves the game and he loves being a part of this program.”
Boye-Doe struck a positive note about his friend’s future, though.
“He’s a guy who definitely will be able to recover,” Boye-Doe said.
Duke developed into a key piece of the defensive line last fall, starting eight of the nine games in which he appeared. He finished last season with 26 tackles (three for loss) and a sack. The best outing of his time with the Wildcats — to this point — came in last season’s come-from-behind victory at Oklahoma, when he notched a personal-best nine tackles in the first start of his college career.
As a freshman in 2019, he played in seven games, primarily serving as a pass-rush specialist on third downs. He collected seven tackles (three for loss) and two sacks that season.
A consensus three-star prospect in the Wildcats’ 2019 signing class, Duke starred at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Ga.
He was a first-team all-state selection by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2018, becoming the school’s first player to achieve that honor since 2013. He was recognized for a sterling senior campaign in which he tallied 142 tackles; 17 of those takedowns were tackles for loss. Duke capped his high school career with 219 tackles (21 for loss), nine sacks and two interceptions. But he also excelled on offense, catching 66 passes for 1,154 yards and 12 touchdowns while also logging 46 carries for 467 yards and four scores.
If that weren’t enough, he also won an individual state championship for the school’s track and field program, capturing the triple jump title.