NC State suffered its first serious injury of the young season, after redshirt junior fullback Logan Winkles suffered another ACL tear Thursday.
The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Winkles was part of a one-two punch at fullback with redshirt junior Tyler Purvis, but now the Wolfpack will be looking for depth.
"We won't have him for the season unfortunately," NC State first-year coach Dave Doeren said. "Logan has had a lot of injuries, so it's unfortunate. It's part of the game and guys understand that. The next man in philosophy will take place there."
Winkles suffered an ACL tear on the opposite knee during his redshirt season in 2010, leading up to playing West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. He missed the first few games of 2011 while rehabbing his knee, but ended up playing 24 snaps at fullback in nine contests, but mostly playing on special teams.
Winkles was praised for his physical nature in the blocking game last year, and caught 10 passes for 90 yards and two scores out of the backfield, including a 25-yard score in the win over Maryland.
"He had a right ACL in high school and then hurt it again here [in 2010], and now it is his left," Doeren said. "It was clean and the docs feel good about his recovery. He just has to go through the normal procedure."
Doeren said Winkles was unlucky by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"He was in a drill and got leg whipped, and it wasn't a planting thing," Doeren said. "Another guy was at the end of the drill and got thrown from the backside, and he didn't see it coming."
Purvis earned the first-string reps at fullback during the spring while Winkles was suspended following a DWI arrest in mid-February. Winkles was reinstated during the summer and praised for his leadership skills by the Wolfpack staff.
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Purvis has caught five passes for 36 yards and two touchdowns — all in 2011 — while playing in 20 games for the Wolfpack. The previous coaching staff praised Purvis' for his great hands, while fullbacks/tight ends coach and co-special teams coordinator Eddie Faulkner said his blocking was one of the surprises of this past spring.
"He is just a football player who catches the ball well," Doeren said. "He is versatile and we can get him in space and do some things. He is a good guy on the move as far as our H-back system goes. He does a lot of things for us."
NC State could also play multiple tight ends or at least three wide receivers or more at times this season in offensive sets that don't include the fullback.
"We'll use what we have," Doeren said. "I always say that I want to use our best players."
A pair of linebackers have also made the move to fullback this week. Fifth-year senior Ryan Cheek, who is 6-0 and 235 pounds, asked to switch positions. Cheek rushed for 751 yards on 124 carries and 13 touchdowns in 2008 for Lancaster (Ohio) High.
"Ryan Cheek, one of his brother-in-arms came over right after the injury and asked if in honor of his brother, could he move from linebacker to fullback and take his spot, which I thought said a lot about a senior on our football team doing something for the rest of the guys," Doeren said.
Freshman Quinton Patterson of Shelby (N.C.) Crest High also was switched to fullback earlier this week. Doeren said the 6-0, 233-pounder hasn't lost much of his blocking skills from high school.
"He is doing well," Doeren said. "When I went to his high school after I got hired and watched his senior highlight tape, more than half the plays were him playing fullback. I left the high school, and I think I was with [safeties coach and co-special teams coordinator] Clayton [White] at the time, and I said: 'If it doesn't work out at linebacker, then he can play fullback.' We had an obvious need there and it's going good."
Redshirt sophomore Maurice Morgan, who played running back and wide receiver at North Lenoir High in La Grange, N.C., and has played the latter position his first two years at NC State, is also trying to find a positional home. The 6-2, 238-pounder could be back to wide receiver.
"Maurice has the ability to be a good player but isn't a good player right now," Doeren said. "He has a long way to go, but I think he can be [good]. He is a big, athletic guy who works hard and does what you say, but he has a lot of learning to do still."
Doeren said there wasn't any other serious injuries on the squad, but just the usual aches and pains of fall camp.
"It's pretty typical at this time of year, nursing some bumps and bruises and sprains," Doeren said.
Quarterback spot down to two candidates: NC State graduate senior Brandon Mitchell and redshirt junior Pete Thomas will be battling it out for the rest of the month to become the starting quarterback against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 31 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The Wolfpack will have an intra-squad scrimmage Saturday, which will be another important step in sorting out who the new signal caller and leader of the offense is. NCSU started fall camp with five quarterbacks vying for the job, but sophomore Manny Stocker and freshmen Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor are now battling for third string.
"We are down to two guys and Pete and Brandon are battling," Doeren said. "Tomorrow will be a big day for those two guys at the first scrimmage. Their experience, the way they have a presence on the field with the offense and both understand the game better."
Rock starting to crumble: NC State has put a big slab of rock near the opening area of the practice fields to help bring team togetherness out into the open in a visible manner. The players get to take a swing at the slabs of rock with a sledge hammer, and after a period of days, the goal of having it crumble to pieces will be achieved.
"It symbolizes all the work that they've been putting in to get to a certain point," Doeren said.