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August 26, 2008

Walker out for year; Eugene for season opener

NC State's bad luck with injuries continued Tuesday when coach Tom O'Brien gave out the injury report after practice.

Star running back Jamelle Eugene has been ruled out for Thursday's season opener at South Carolina with an ankle injury. O'Brien had hoped Eugene would be ready to go, but instead senior Andre Brown and sophomore Curtis Underwood will be the new 1-2 punch in the backfield.

Eugene missed most of NC State's fourth scrimmage Aug. 20 to try and have him ready for the opener.

"No idea," said O'Brien on when Eugene might be back. "I thought he'd be here this week."

Eugene also handled kick and punt returns for the Wolfpack. Freshman T.J. Graham, redshirt junior Geron James and even redshirt freshman starting quarterback Russell Wilson, are some of the candidates to handle the punt return duties O'Brien said.

O'Brien said redshirt sophomore strong safetyJavon Walker will be out for the season after suffering complications from his season-ending knee injury that he suffered against Miami last November.

Senior right guard Curtis Crouch, a backup behind Meares Green, will not be traveling to Columbia at O'Brien's request. Redshirt freshman Henry Lawson will move into Crouch's backup role.

Sophomore outside linebacker Thomas Barnes and freshman defensive tackle Kyle Linney have left the team and will be looking to transfer to a new college. Neither player were on the two-deep depth chart.

Also, freshman offensive lineman Sam Jones failed to qualify academically, but hopes to get what he needs to get done and enroll next January O'Brien said.

O'Brien also said redshirt senior punter Bradley Pierson won the kickoff job over placekicker Josh Czajkowski.

"Bradley Pierson [will kick off], unless we change our mind before that," O'Brien said. "Right now that's where we are going. He's done it and done it well consistently through camp."

O'Brien also expects five true freshman to play Thursday - Graham, linebackers Sterling Lucas and Dwayne Maddox, cornerback Dominique Ellis and fullback Taylor Gentry.

•••


NC State has the rare opportunity to play in front of a national crowd, with recruits from all over the country possibly watching. The thought has not been lost on O'Brien.

"I think it's important for the program," O'Brien said. "It's important that we go and we play hard and we play smart. You only get so many opportunities to do this. That's one good thing about being able to play on Thursday night, especially this Thursday night because it's the first one. Everybody that doesn't want to watch politics can watch football."

•••


One of the running jokes about O'Brien's office is that the television is usually on the same channel every day. He nearly confirmed that Tuesday when asked about whether he is keeping track of the weather conditions for Thursday's game.

"I watch the weather report every day," O'Brien said. "I watch the Weather Channel. It's on my TV. It's supposed to be the same as it is here, I think. There's a chance for thunderstorms, so we'll see."


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