RALEIGH — Without T.J. Graham, the career leader in ACC history in return yardage, N.C. State needs new options in the return game.
All-American cornerback David Amerson has the hands and speed to be a top returner but he also is extremely valuable to the Packs defense.
Given the rash of injuries the program has suffered under coach Tom OBrien, it might be a risk to use Amerson as a returner, but OBrien said the junior might be given a chance to return kickoffs and punts with Tobais Palmer, Rashard Smith and C.J. Wilson.
OBrien, who was in midseason form with the media Tuesday night, balked at the question about Amerson and then joked:
Youre saying its me that causes the injuries on the football team?
Amerson returned one kickoff last season for 25 yards and Graham made it through four years of returning punts and kicks without major injury.
Underwood update: OBrien sounded optimistic sophomore receiver Bryan Underwood would return to practice sooner, rather than later, after recent knee surgery.
Underwood caught 16 passes for 226 yards last season and is expected to have a bigger role this season with the loss of Graham and Jay Smith. OBrien said Saturday that Underwood was out indefinitely, and his status hasnt changed, but OBrien said Tuesday night: Its a question of when the doctors clear him to go.
Underwood had been working on the second-team offense behind Tobais Palmer and Quintin Payton but his speed in the slot will keep him on the field in most of States passing formations.
Junior Rashard Smith and freshman Charlie Hegedus are two of the receivers who have gotten more reps in practice with Underwood sidelined.
Ramsay nears his return
CHAPEL HILL In his first game back after the NCAA reinstated his eligibility, North Carolina fullback Devon Ramsay suffered a debilitating knee injury that ended his senior season. The NCAA granted him another year of eligibility, though, and now Ramsay is close to resuming practice with the Tar Heels.
They have not released him fully yet, UNC coach Larry Fedora said Wednesday. But we need to get him acclimated and get him involved in everything so that when he does get released, we can find out what he can do and how he can help this football team.
The NCAA in 2009 ruled Ramsay permanently ineligible amid UNCs wide-ranging academic fraud scandal. Ramsay fought to clear his name and earned his reinstatement before suffering a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee during UNCs 2011 season-opening victory against James Madison.
The NCAA granted him an extra year, but Ramsay missed spring practice while recovering from his injury. Fedora said it was unclear how Ramsay might fit into UNCs offense, mainly because Fedora has yet to see Ramsay play in person.
I know he went through some things and then had the knee injury, Fedora said. So thats pretty tough on a young man. And now to be very close to getting to come back, I think hes excited, you know. I think hes real excited to get back. Andrew Carter
Kicking competition heats up
DURHAM While it remains to be seen how many true freshmen will receive significant playing time this fall, kicker Ross Martin looks like the strongest candidate to have an immediate impact.
Martin, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound Ohio native, was ranked the No. 1 incoming kicker in the nation by Rivals. During Dukes first scrimmage, he was good on field goals from 40 and 48 yards.
Duke was 1-of-3 on field goals from 40-49 yards last season with starting kicker Will Snyderwine, who struggled as a senior after an All-American junior year, booting his longest make from 40 yards.
We got a lot of kicking game work, and our specialists got off to a good start, Cutcliffe said. Our punting game and our kicking game were both excellent, and we stayed on track.
Will Monday, a redshirt freshman who was listed as both the starting kicker and punter on the preseason depth chart that was released before camp started, is still in line to punt, though Martin is giving him competition there as well. Both are competing to take over for the departed Alex King, a second-team all-ACC selection from last season who enrolled at Texas as a graduate student.
All three of Dukes specialistsMartin, Monday and sophomore Jack Willoughby will compete to handle kickoffs.
One factor in that decision, Cutcliffe said, will be the ability to onside kick, a move that the Blue Devils used against teams such as Florida State, Stanford (both successful) and Miami (unsuccessful).
I like onside kicks, Cutcliffe said. I want to know whos got the tricks. Laura Keeley