This is a very interesting time for Wolfpack football. It's understandable why State is generally picked last in the Atlantic Division.
State starts a brand spanking new quarterback under center (Russell Wilson). A slightly more experienced offensive line (although 2/5 of the starters were defensive linemen a year ago). A fleet of inexperienced wide receivers thanks to the injury to Donald Bowens (for anyone who questions State fans' belief in an injury curse, I ask you… how often does your star wide receiver break his f'ing back and nobody know it?!). The linebackers are all relatively inexperienced. The kicker is new. And we have a freshman starting at safety (Justin Byers).
However, the Pack does have some experience along the defensive line. The corners are experienced. The Pack returns the most underrated running back corps in all of college football. But the most important part of the Pack's season is up hill… an Ant Hill to be exact. An elite tight end before he was injured for the entire 2007 season, senior Anthony Hill, returns for his final season to give Russell Wilson the bestest gift a young quarterback could ask for... a safety valve who can change the game.
An FTD floral bouquet with a stuffed animal is great for grandmothers but not so much for a quarterback starting his first collegiate game. And if anyone doesn't think a great tight end can save a young quarterback (his sanity and his physical health), give Philip Rivers a call (remember him?). Having great running backs (which NC State does) and a stud tight end can be the difference between blast and bust.
During Rivers first pro season, he had the luxury of handing off to LaDanian Tomlinson (and Michael Turner) and throwing to all-everything tight end, Antonio Gates. It worked out pretty well for Mr. Rivers. That should be the model for Russell Wilson's out–of-the-gate success.
Ever see the 1980 movie, My Bodyguard? It's an underdog story about a small kid that enlists a really big kid to keep him from getting beat all to Hades by some bullies. Ok. That's the NC State 2008 football season in a nutshell. Ant Hill is Wilson's My Bodyguard. Russell Wilson is going to come to appreciate Anthony Hill more than a Britney Spears fan has come to appreciate panties.
Anthony Hill is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds. He runs faster than a meth head on Cops. His hands are softer than a Jonas Brothers song. In essence, Wilson has a minivan with opposable thumbs to throw to. And did I mention that Hill missed all of last season? That means he's got something to prove. He's got one year to show NFL scouts that he's still fast, he's still effective and most important... he's durable.
So what Wilson really has is a minivan with racing stripes to throw to. That should bring a bigger smile to Wilson's face than a gift certificate to the local Thai massage parlor. Of course for NC State to make it to a bowl game this year, the question marks must prove to be exclamation points (or at least periods).
However, when it's all said and done, and people talk about 2008 being Tom O'Brien's turnaround season at NC State, one movie will come to mind. My Bodyguard. It's always great to see the underdog win. Especially when the underdog is a part of the Wolfpack.
Stay safe and stay tuned...