The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Going into its 2008 campaign the largest question mark for N.C. State's football team was the quarterback perhaps the most important position on any team.

The Wolfpack had two players on its roster with extensive experience leading an offense but both had turned in mediocre performances in their time at the helm of the offense last season.

Coach Tom O'Brien had a quartet of quarterbacks ­­— Daniel Evans Mike Glennon Harrison Beck and Russell Wilson — to choose from. He ended up taking a chance with an inexperienced newbie the redshirt freshman Wilson.

It turned out to be a risk worth taking.

Wilson has blossomed in N.C. State's offense this season growing into a potent dual-threat quarterback as the season has progressed.

After struggling in the early season against South Carolina and Clemson he has thrown a touchdown in every game he has appeared in and has been careful to limit his turnovers.

Wilson arrives in Chapel Hill fresh off of his best game of the season. He earned the ACC Rookie of the Week award for helping spark N.C. State's upset of Wake Forest a game in which he gained 221 yards of total offense threw for two scores and rushed for a touchdown.

The signal-caller also kept alive an impressive streak of 175 passing attempts without an interception last week. And he did all of that in just his first collegiate season behind center.

Freshman quarterbacks are supposed to be plagued by interceptions not immune to them.

Add leading late-game touchdown drives to the list of things Wilson's doing that freshman signal-callers just aren't supposed to do.

Against then-No. 15 East Carolina and Boston College the third and fourth starts of his career Wilson played with the poise of an upperclassman in calmly directing game-tying drives with the game in the balance. He finished both off with scores through the air.

Wilson possesses the full array of tools necessary to be a successful college quarterback.

His arm is strong enough to rifle balls across the field his footwork in the pocket is solid and his speed forces defenses to account for him on the ground. A scouting service measured his 40-yard dash at 4.69 in high school.

For the season Wilson has 1270 passing yards and 234 rushing yards good for third best on the Wolfpack. He also has scored three rushing touchdowns.

But Wilson isn't just a one-trick pony. He also plays second base on NC State's baseball team hitting .296 in 32 appearances notching two home runs a triple and a pair of doubles.

He also showed off his speed on the basepaths stealing six bases on seven attempts.

North Carolina's defense has plenty of experience stopping dual-threat quarterbacks this season having already shut down Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor and Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt in conference action.

The Tar Heels' linebackers Mark Paschal Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter as well as the rest of the defense will need to put together a repeat effort on Wilson in order to stifle the Wolfpack offense.

It will also be interesting to see if North Carolina's ball-hawking secondary can nab any picks off of Wilson. UNC's defense checks is tied for second in the FBS in interceptions but Wilson hasn't thrown one since Sept. 13 against Clemson.

Wilson won't pile up huge yardage against the Tar Heels but he also won't hand the defense many gifts. UNC will have to earn its way off the field with third down stops.


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