The sensational six

It takes a strong quarterback to compete in college football and these state programs have players who have what it takes to win.

staff writerAugust 23, 2009 

Go ahead and try to build a successful college football program without an effective quarterback.

East Carolina coach Skip Holtz doesn't recommend it.

"This game is becoming more and more about the quarterback," Holtz said. "If you don't have a quarterback, you can forget it."

This season, six of the state's top football programs have little to worry about at the game's most important position.

N.C. State's Russell Wilson, North Carolina's T.J. Yates, Duke's Thaddeus Lewis, Wake Forest's Riley Skinner, East Carolina's Patrick Pinkney and Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards might not light up the draft boards of NFL scouts, or Heisman Trophy ballots, but they're good college players, and as a group they might be the best this state has ever seen.

Wilson became the first freshman in the ACC's 56-year history to be named first-team, All-ACC quarterback. He is one of five returning quarterbacks at the state's major Division I programs. Mix in Edwards, maybe the best player in Football Championship Subdivision, and there's no lack of experience, or talent, at the position. If there's one place football coaches can find common ground it's at quarterback.

"Quarterback is the most important person on the football field," N.C. State's Tom O'Brien said. "When you get one of those guys, you've got a chance. That was never more apparent than with our football team last year."

The Wolfpack won just twice in its first eight games last season while the rookie Wilson was either injured, and out of the lineup, or still learning on the job. In the final month of the regular season, State closed with four wins with Wilson accounting for 10 touchdowns.

Accuracy, arm strength, size, poise and leadership are among the key qualities coaches look for. These six quarterbacks don't share every attribute, but the good ones are always easy to spot.

"They make the people around them better," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.

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