N.C. State will start the season without linebacker M.J. Salahuddin. The Wolfpack might have to play the whole season without the junior from Fayetteville.
Salahuddin, who started five games last season and was going to be the starter at middle linebacker this season, suffered a knee injury in practice last week and will require surgery, N.C. State Dave Doeren said Sunday.
Doeren didn’t rule out Salahuddin playing this season but pointed out Salahuddin has yet to use his redshirt season. Doeren said Salahuddin, who had 25 tackles last season, would be out for a while and did not provide further details about the type of injury.
“I hate to see it for M.J., like I do for any player, (he’s) maybe one of the better workers on our football team,” Doeren said.
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The injury happened on a routine play, Doeren said. Salahuddin was taking on a block, the coach said.
“For whatever reason, his knee didn’t want to act the same way it normally did,” Doeren said.
Without Salahuddin, an already-thin Wolfpack linebacking corps gets leaner. Redshirt freshman Jerod Fernandez was a standout in the spring and will replace Salahuddin in the middle.
Fernandez, who’s 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds and from Lake Mary, Fla., was one of the defensive scout team players of the year last season.
“We’re going to miss M.J.; he’s a great player,” junior cornerback Juston Burris said. “We have to have that ‘next man up’ mentality, and hopefully Fernandez can come in and bring some of that production M.J. would have had.”
N.C. State already had switched to a 4-2-5 alignment on defense, taking one linebacker off the field. There’s more experience on the outside with seniors Rodman Noel and Brandon Pittman. Doeren said sophomore Ernie Robinson and freshman Airius Moore will back up Fernandez.