When N.C. State receiver T.J. Graham says a pass "could go anywhere" this season, he's not exaggerating.
Nineteen Wolfpack players caught a pass in 2010, including former quarterback Russell Wilson. But while the biggest question for N.C. State is which receiver will emerge as new quarterback Mike Glennon's go-to option, offensive coordinator Dana Bible is not necessarily losing sleep over it.
"It's an equal-opportunity offense," said Bible, who coaches quarterbacks and receivers. "We're going to go where the matchup works for us."
The receiver-by-committee concept suited Wilson well. Last season, he connected with 10 players for at least 10 catches, but he did have primary targets in departed receivers Owen Spencer (60 receptions) and Jarvis Williams (52).
Graham, a senior, caught 25 passes last season, the most of any receiver on the current roster, but running backs Mustafa Greene (30), James Washington (27) and Taylor Gentry were prominent in the passing game, as was All-ACC tight end George Bryan (35 catches for 369 yards).
The Wolfpack also returns senior receivers Jay Smith and Stephen Howard - with Smith slated to start with Graham - and sophomore Quintin Payton, but all three were primarily reserves behind Spencer, Williams and Darrell Davis.
N.C. State has two receivers who redshirted last season, junior-college transfer Tobais Palmer and freshman Bryan Underwood, both of whom will be given a chance to make an impact this season. True freshman Hakeem Flowers has also impressed his teammates in training camp.
Regardless of which players emerge as Glennon's favorites, the group will have a different look than last year's. Spencer, Davis and Williams were all 6-foot-3 or taller. Only Flowers is listed at that height among this year's group.
Wilson was adept at using the receivers' height to his advantage. He excelled at the long ball and allowed his bigger receivers to make plays downfield.
At 6-6, Glennon is almost eight inches taller than Wilson and can work more of the middle of the field, which Bible said will play to the strength of this smaller receiving group.
"There are some strengths that we have now that we didn't have in the past couple of years," Bible said. "We are exceptionally fast. This group can really accelerate, and we're going to take advantage of that."
Graham, Palmer and Underwood are the fastest receivers in the group, but the group's speed did not translate to a fast start in training camp. Coach Tom O'Brien has released only team statistics from the scrimmages during training camp, with modest passing numbers, notably less than 5 yards per catch in the first scrimmage.
But O'Brien said he has been encouraged by the group's progress as training camp closes and as the team begins preparation for the opener against Liberty on Sept. 3.
"I think they've been much more consistent the last week, which is good for us," O'Brien said. "If they continue to catch the ball the way that they have, I think we'll be fine."
O'Brien singled out Graham, who has 53 career receptions, and Smith, who caught 10 passes and a touchdown last season, as the leaders of the group.
Bible said he likes the overall talent and personality of the inexperienced receiving group, but is quick to point out that the passing game also includes the tight ends and running backs, where N.C. State does have experience.
In addition to Bryan, junior tight end Mario Carter figures to play a bigger role in the offense, a full year removed from a serious knee injury. And while Greene is expected to miss the first four games at halfback with a foot injury, one of his backups is freshman Tony Creecy, a standout receiver in high school.
With Wilson responsible for 308 of N.C. State's 319 completions last season, the distribution broke down to 60 percent of the passes to receivers and 40 percent to tight ends or backs. Wilson hit 12 players for his ACC-best 28 touchdown passes.
Bible doesn't expect Glennon to be any different, in terms of using all of the available targets.
"That's how the scheme's designed," Bible said. "That's not going to change whether it's Russell, Matt Ryan or Mike Glennon."
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