Friday, October 16, 2009

Pack counting on freshman DB

It's too much to expect Rashard Smith to fix N.C. State's struggling secondary all by himself.

He's just a freshman, and he's the only new starter this week in a defensive backfield that gave up 459 passing yards to Duke's Thaddeus Lewis last week. But N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said this week that Smith is part of the long-range solution for the team's defense.

Smith caught the Wolfpack coaches' eyes immediately during preseason camp. In N.C. State's first scrimmage he returned an interception for a touchdown.

"A maturity level is what struck us coming into camp," O'Brien said. ". . .He has good skills, but he has great awareness out there. That's something that we've been lacking."

At Boston College on Saturday, Smith will move into the starting lineup at boundary cornerback. He had played as a reserve last week behind Justin Byers after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury.

Before the injury, Smith made a big impact. He had a big fourth-quarter punt return against South Carolina and started two games before getting hurt.

Now the Wolfpack is counting on him to slow the bleeding in a secondary that has given up a total of 820 passing yards in the last two games.

"There are kids that have vision and understand the game, and he's just one of them," O'Brien said. "He has confidence in himself to play the position. I don't think he's intimidated by anything, and that's one of the conversations we had after the South Carolina game. When the lights came on, he wasn't intimidated by anything."

Ken Tysiac