Pack's Christophe will start

Staff WriterAugust 30, 2011 

N.C. State offensive lineman Duran Christophe is a quick healer.

Less than three weeks after knee surgery, he will start against Liberty in the season opener Saturday, coach Tom O'Brien said Monday.

Christophe, a sophomore left guard, had surgery for a torn meniscus on Aug. 10 and was projected to be out four weeks.

He returned to practice last week, however, and is a "full go" for the opener, O'Brien said.

Asked if Christophe, who started one game last season, would be ready for Saturday, O'Brien - who loathes to discuss injuries with the media - said: "He's listed on the first team. He better be ready to go."

There were few other surprises on N.C. State's depth chart, which was updated for the first time since the Aug. 4 start of training camp.

Junior Brian Slay will fill in for the injured J.R. Sweezy at defensive tackle. Sweezy, one of the team's top defenders, broke his left foot during training camp and is expected to miss as many as five games.

Christophe returned ahead of schedule, by about a week. O'Brien said it's the team policy to release the "worst-case" scenario, in terms of how long a player potentially could be out.

"Every injury, every kid is different," O'Brien said. "Every rehab is different. (Christophe) practiced last week and had no real issues with swelling or setbacks."

Sweezy and sophomore running back Mustafa Greene (foot) were joined on the injury report by guard Andrew Wallace and fullback Logan Winkles, who are recovering from offseason knee surgeries.

Cornerback Jarvis Byrd and linebacker Sterling Lucas are out for the season with knee injuries. Lucas was supposed to back up sophomore D.J. Green at strongside linebacker.

True freshman Michael Peek is listed as Green's backup.

Peek and cornerback Tyrell Burriss were the only two true freshmen on the depth chart on offense or defense. As expected, freshman kicker Niklas Sade and freshman punter Wil Baumann are the starting specialists.

"They've earned the right to play," O'Brien said of Peek and Burriss. "Those two kids did a great job in preseason camp and learned what they had to learn."

Junior running back James Washington will get the start ahead of Curtis Underwood at halfback, in place of the injured Greene.

Redshirt freshman running back Tony Creecy, who has missed some practice time with a foot injury, is expected to play against Liberty, O'Brien said.

In two of the training camp position battles, Jay Smith earned the starting spot at the second receiver position, over Steven Howard, and Darryl Cato-Bishop will start at defensive end, in front of McKay Frandsen.

Powell earns scholarship: Defensive back Zach Powell, a senior walk-on from Fuquay-Varina, will be on scholarship for his final college season, O'Brien said.

"Every community service project we've ever done, Zach has always been at the forefront," O'Brien said. "He has been a great kid, and he deserves a scholarship for his last year."

Receiver Everett Proctor and offensive lineman Torian Box have left the program since spring practice.

N.C. State already had added offensive lineman Cameron Fordham, a transfer from Louisiana State.

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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