N.C. State sophomore Rashard Smith has a new position.
Given the Wolfpack’s surplus of defensive backs and shallow receiving corps, coach Tom O’Brien called it a “logical” decision to give Smith, one of the team’s best athletes, a chance to get on the field as a wide receiver.
“We play six wide receivers,” O’Brien said Wednesday on the ACC teleconference. “This gets him an opportunity and us an opportunity to get another athlete on the field.”
As a freshman two years ago, Smith started three games at cornerback and recorded 12 tackles and a sack in five games. He redshirted the 2010 season with a knee injury.
N.C. State returns last year’s cornerback starters — David Amerson and C.J. Wilson. O’Brien has been pleased with their work in training camp and the depth at the position, despite the loss of sophomore Jarvis Byrd to a knee injury before the start of August practice.
Junior Gary Grant and true freshman Tyrell Burriss are listed as the second-team corners on this week’s depth chart. N.C. State also has senior Justin Byers, who has 14 career starts, including four last year.
That depth prompted Smith, who was a prep star at quarterback, to shift to offense.
State has to replace its top two receivers from last year and three of their top four pass-catchers. Seniors T.J. Graham, who had 25 catches last year for 316 yards, and Jay Smith are expected to start against Liberty on Saturday.
How much Rashard Smith, a former prep star at quarterback, will play on Saturday is unclear. Steven Howard and Tobais Palmer are also listed on the depth chart, which leaves two spots in the regular receiver rotation.
Smith had already impressed the coaching staff with ability to return punts. In high school at Dublin, Ga., Smith passed for 1,300 yards and ran for 900 and was named the state Class AA player of the year.
“He’s still learning, but he has shown the ability that he does a lot of things natural at that position,” O’Brien said.