Quarterback could define State’s year

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 8, 2011

By Joedy McCreary
Associated Press
RALEIGH ó Tom OíBrien made his decision, and heís sticking with it.
Thereís no looking back for the former Marine. No second-guessing if he made the right choice in picking Mike Glennon as North Carolina Stateís quarterback and showing Russell Wilson the door.
Outsiders may view this season as a referendum on which quarterback he ultimately should have chosen. But internally, OíBrien and the Wolfpack refuse to let their season be defined by the star player they let get away.
ěI understand all the questions, but the decision was made in April,î OíBrien said. ěWeíre confident that weíre going to be fine moving forward with Mike Glennon. He had a great spring. Itís not about one guy. Itís a team game. Thereís going to be more than one guy involved whether we win or lose, and Iím sure itís going to be the same wherever Russell is. Itís about more than just one guy.î
Maybe, but Wilson was a pretty important guy.
The 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year and all-ACC quarterback led N.C. State to two bowl games in three years, and capped off the Wolfpackís best season since 2002 with a victory in the Champs Sports Bowl and a 9-4 finish.
But after he missed spring practice to resume his baseball career, he and OíBrien parted ways with N.C. State releasing him from his scholarship. That led to a high-profile courtship in which Wilson chose Big Ten contender Wisconsin over reigning national champion Auburn.
That left the Wolfpack in Glennonís untested hands. The promising pocket-passer, who will make his first career start Sept. 3 in the opener against Liberty, took exactly 35 snaps last season as Wilsonís top backup and was 9 of 13 for 78 yards.
Wilson is a better runner. Glennon has a better arm. Their teammates say there wonít be a dropoff in leadership because both have total command in the huddle.
ěTheyíre kind of coached to be the same way,î tight end George Bryan said.
The Wolfpack hope their supporting cast can make the transition as easy as possible for Glennon.
N.C. State has three starters back on the offensive line plus Bryan, the preseason all-ACC pick at tight end. Bryan has been a trusty safety valve with a knack for getting open ó a valuable attribute for an inexperienced quarterback. Both starting receivers are gone, but speedy T.J. Graham ó one of the ACCís top return men with three career kick returns for touchdowns ó will have to step up. He caught 53 passes and scored five TDs last season.
ěItís college football. Guys graduate and youíre just going to need other people to step up and fill their roles, the same roles they left behind,î Bryan said.
There are questions in the backfield after leading rusher Mustafa Greene had foot surgery to repair an injury suffered during spring practice and will miss at least four games. The Wolfpack hope their experienced defense can carry them until Glennon gets comfortable and Greene heals. N.C. State returns eight defensive starters, including defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy, linebacker Audie Cole and four starters in the secondary.
But thereís no denying what the season-long subplot will be for the Wolfpack ó especially if they stumble while Wisconsin climbs the national rankings.
ěRussell was a great player and did great things for us,î OíBrien said. ěHeís a great kid, and we certainly wish him the best. But I think I had my say back in April, and Iím comfortable with our decision and our focus right now moving forward and coaching the guys we have.î
OíBrien says Glennon had a great spring, showing that heís ready to be a quarterback.
ěWe believe we can win with him at the highest level,î he added. ěBut we certainly understand that this isnít about one guy. This is a team game. Thereís a lot of pieces that have to fall in place. Heís just one of them.î