RALEIGH — N.C. State's first spring football practice on Tuesday was notable for both who was there and who was missing.
Star linebacker Nate Irving, who was sidelined for the entire 2009 season, was back as was offensive coordinator Dana Bible, who missed the final two games after being diagnosed with leukemia.
But star quarterback Russell Wilson was not. Wilson is skipping practice this spring to concentrate on baseball, which leaves Mike Glennon as the only scholarship quarterback on the field.
After an almost 21/2-hour workout, Wolfpack Tom O'Brien was happy to have the first day in the books but didn't read too much into it.
"It's a first day," O'Brien said. "Without pads, everybody looks pretty good."
Next Tuesday will be the first day in pads, when the real work starts. Until then, O'Brien's trying to evaluate the new talent in place at quarterback, running back and the majority of the defense. With nine players out with injury, plus Wilson, there's plenty of opportunity for the healthy players.
Glennon, who will be a third-year sophomore, is getting the longest look. With Wilson's future in some doubt, Glennon could be the Pack's starter come Sept. 4 against Western Carolina. He will at least play the part in the spring.
"It's the best thing for me," Glennon said. "I really have to take advantage of it."
In one of the final drills of the practice, Glennon threw a 40-yard rope to Owen Spencer over the defense. It was the kind of natural ability that made the 6-foot-6 quarterback from Centreville, Va. one of the top-rated prospects coming out of high school in 2008.
"We know what he can do," Spencer said. "I know he can throw it."
It's the leadership, Glennon said, that he wants to prove to his teammates that he can handle.
"Just having the guys know that I'm capable of being the guy, whether or not Russell comes back," Glennon said. "Playing on Saturdays, you can't really translate that to the practice field. This is the closest thing to getting those reps."
Glennon's only other concern is a sore arm but that's a good thing, O'Brien said.
"He's getting a lot of time to throw, he's getting a lot of attention coaching-wise, so he should get better and better each and every day," O'Brien said.
The return of Irving and Bible was a welcomed sight all around. Irving missed the season because of the injuries he sustained in a preseason car crash. The Wolfpack's woeful defense, which ranked No. 99 nationally in scoring defense, needs a healthy Irving.
"He's excited to be back, and I think it shows on the defense," O'Brien said.
On the other side of the ball, O'Brien was calling the plays, working with Glennon and trying to ease some of Bible's workload. O'Brien said Bible, his longtime assistant at both Boston College and N.C. State, is still undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
"As much as he can do, we're going to let him do," O'Brien said.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-8938