NC State quarterback Russell Wilson was a hot topic at the seventh annual Triangle Pigskin Preview, as reporters and fans wanted to know the latest on the Wolfpack's sophomore signal-caller.
Wilson burst on the scene last fall with a memorable freshman campaign. The first rookie in ACC history to be named first-team all-conference, Wilson led the ACC in points responsible for (12.40 per game), passing efficiency (133.9), total offense (213), and touchdown passes (17).
He threw only one interception all season, fewest among all FBS quarterbacks ranked in the NCAA passing categories and set a school record by attempting 249 consecutive passes without an interception, an active-streak that led the country. He also added 388 yards and another four scores on the ground.
Because he is so dangerous as a runner, Wilson would take off looking to pick up chunks of yardage and first downs, and a lot of times he was successful. However, that left him open for blind-sided hits and also kept him from finding receivers who just might be open.
Wilson injured his knee
on this run against Rutgers.
"I don’t think we ever want to discourage Russell from running the football because that’s something that he does very, very well," said Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien. "But he did it as a reaction to not understanding fully the progression of the pass or the play that was called.
"There were many instances where he took some god-awful hits out there when if he had understood the offense a little better and the decision making process a little better, we could have thrown the ball and got even more yards."
It's hard to be critical of Wilson's play, and O'Brien wasn't doing that. If anything, his comments suggested Wilson has the capability to perform at a level even higher than he did in 2008.
"It’s all a part of his development," said O'Brien. "That’s not unusual for a guy in his first year at quarterback. The game is fast out there, and it doesn’t slow down until you play a lot and gain more experience.
"Certainly the bowl game was his best all year. It was an opportunity for us at the end of the season, since we now have some history with him, to go back and look at some tape and explain to him how he can be a much better football player and quarterback... and we’ll be a better football team. Certainly [Wilson is] a strength."
Just because NC State would like Wilson to continue his development as a passing quarterback doesn't mean they are going to ask him to not scramble around and make plays.
"A lot of defensive coordinators in this league don’t like it when he runs and that’s a good thing," said O'Brien. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe replied back, "Do I get a vote? We want him to stay in the pocket."
"A lot of defensive coordinators
in this league don’t like
it when he runs."
Most of the running Wilson has done the past few months has been on the baseball diamond. A utility infielder for the Wolfpack, he spent most of the spring with the baseball team, playing in 27 games (22 starts). He batted .236 with 2 doubles, 10 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases. He played 25 games this summer with the Gastonia Grizzlies and batted .205.
Last year Wilson's main focus was football as he tried to win the starting job. He didn't miss a spring football workout and didn't play summer ball. According to coach O'Brien, the extra attention to baseball hasn't hindered his development.
"He's been fine," said O'Brien. "It's not unlike he did last year because baseball extended last year with the playoffs. He never ended up in first session summer school. He did come back to us the second session of summer school so the timing is the same as it was a year ago as far as he's concerned with the strength, conditioning, and throwing the football.
"He called me a couple of times when he was down playing baseball to tell me that he worked out four days and was throwing the football down there."
I don’t think it hinders his development at all," O'Brien added. "I think one thing happening in athletics is parents today hinder their children by pushing them into one sport.
"Russell is 50 going on 21...whatever he is."