Pack set for spring drills

N.C. State football team has questions to answer

staff writerMarch 17, 2011 

  • When: 1 p.m. April 16

    Cost: $1 (minimum donation to Kay Yow Cancer Fund)

    Parking: free

Tom O'Brien and the N.C. State football team got an unexpected shout-out from athletic director Debbie Yow on Tuesday.

At her news conference on basketball coach Sidney Lowe's departure, Yow referenced the year of the school's last ACC title in football, in 1979.

"We're looking forward to changing that soon," Yow said. "And Coach Tom is going to be sure that happens."

The Wolfpack came close to its first division title in 2010. A loss in the regular-season finale to Maryland cost the Pack a chance to play for the conference title in Charlotte.

The Pack went on to beat West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl and finish with nine wins and the No. 25 spot in the AP poll.

State gets back to work today with the start of spring practice. The spring game is set for April 16. Three questions for the Pack between now and then:

Is quarterback Russell Wilson really gone?

For now. Wilson is playing baseball for the Colorado Rockies. N.C. State does not list him on either the spring roster or the "organizational" chart, but he is listed under "lettermen lost."

Wilson was an integral part of the Wolfpack's success in 2010, throwing for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he is one of the best in school history to play the position. Technically, he has a season of eligibility left, but the coaching staff is moving forward with Mike Glennon as the starter. But there is still no guarantee that Wilson won't return in the fall.

Glennon led the team through spring drills last year and has been in Dana Bible's offensive system for three years. His career stats are short, 33-of-52 for 326 yards and one touchdown, but O'Brien and Bible believe he's long on potential.

And with Glennon moving up the depth chart, redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius will serve as the backup.

If Glennon's throwing the ball, who's going to catch it?

The top three receivers -- Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis -- are gone, taking 138 receptions and 12 touchdowns with them.

All-ACC tight end George Bryan (35 catches, three TDs) is back, and the coaching staff believes he will be more involved in the offense because of Glennon's size (6 feet 6) and ability to throw the ball over the middle of the field.

T.J. Graham, who will be a senior, is the top wideout in camp, but Steven Howard and Jay Smith have experience. A wideout to watch is junior-college transfer Tobais Palmer, who redshirted last year. Palmer is undersized at 5-11 and 175 pounds, but he's got the speed and moves to make big plays in Bible's offense.

Who will fill Nate Irving's leadership void on defense?

That will be a season-long question because Irving made such a difference in State's defense (see the 2009 version vs. 2010 version), and it wasn't just his playmaking ability but also the belief of his teammates in him.

Audi Cole has been moved to the "mike" linebacker, where Irving played last season. Cole, who will be a senior, has started since the past two seasons, albeit at an outside backer spot. He tied Irving for the team lead in tackles (97) last season.

In terms of big-play ability, "will" linebacker Terrell Manning is cut from the same cloth as Irving.

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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