Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pack safety Johnson back from injury

N.C. State starting boundary safety Clem Johnson, who missed the regular season finale against Miami with an ankle injury, will play in Monday's Bowl against Rutgers.

Coach Tom O'Brien said during Sunday's news conference that he's not sure Johnson is 100 percent, but he has been healthy enough to practice.

Johnson's play as the last line of defense could be critical against an opponent with a big-play passing attack. Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel has thrown 20 touchdown passes over the last six games.

"It's good for us that he's sharp, and he looks pretty healthy during practice, so that's good for our secondary," O'Brien said.

O'Brien is familiar from his days at Boston College with Teel, Rutgers' quarterback.

Teel played at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey for Greg Toal, father of Boston College linebacker Brian Toal. Teel attended camp at Boston College, was recruited by O'Brien and said he was a close friend of Brian Toal.

"(Boston College) was a nice place and (O'Brien) was a great coach," Teel said. "It just wasn't right for me."

O'Brien also tried to recruit Rutgers wideout Kenny Britt, who leads the Big East in catches and receiving yards, and a few players in the Scarlet Knights' secondary.

The lone North Carolina resident on Rutgers' roster is Hickory High graduate San San Te, who starts at place-kicker as a redshirt freshman.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said he typically recruits place-kickers through specialists who run camps devoted exclusively to coaching young kickers. That's how he located Te, who is 9-for-13 on field goal attempts.

"He's had some pretty good answers for us," Schiano said.

One of the most often asked questions about the Birmingham game is why it's called the Bowl rather than just the Papa John's Bowl.

Bowl executive director Mark Meadows said the sponsorship with the pizza retailer was hatched shortly after Papa John's began making delivery available through its web site. Company executives thought the bowl would raise awareness of the Internet ordering option.

"I do think it was a successful sponsorship and partnership," Meadows said.

It was successful enough for the company to recently sign on for two extra years as title sponsor after the initial two-year contract expired. -- Ken Tysiac