Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Injuries leave Wolfpack inexperienced at safety

Late last season, safety seemed to be a position of strength for N.C. State's future.

Junior DaJuan Morgan was well on his way to a second-team All-ACC selection.

Redshirt freshman Javon Walker emerged after the midseason open date as one of the most productive players on defense.

How quickly things changed.

Morgan left school to become a third-round selection in the NFL draft.

Walker tore a knee ligament against Miami and still isn't practicing.

N.C. State recruited a junior college transfer, Clem Johnson, who demonstrated promise at that position but suffered a broken jaw during Sunday's scrimmage.

Johnson has had surgery, and coach Tom O'Brien isn't optimistic about his chances for returning. O'Brien said he believes Johnson is eligible for a redshirt year, and it sounds like he might use it.

"With the jaw, you don't eat and then you lose weight," O'Brien said. "There's that problem of trying to get substance in him. He's going to have to start all over once it heals, which is a lengthy process anyway."

Johnson had been competing with Justin Byers for a starting position. His loss leaves N.C. State with redshirt freshmen Byers and Jimmaul Simmons, junior walk-on Bobby Floyd and senior J.C. Neal to fill two safety positions.

Neal, who made six starts last season, is the only player with any kind of experience.

"We've got some bodies back there," said defensive coordinator Mike Archer. "Luckily we've got two weeks. We've got to get somebody ready to play."

- Ken Tysiac