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October 2, 2008North Carolina State football coach Tom O'Brien ended the suspense Thursday after days of speculation.
O'Brien announced that quarterback Russell Wilson is healthy enough to start against Boston College at noon Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Wilson hurt his right shoulder against East Carolina and didn't play against South Florida last week, the second game he didn't start this season. Wilson also couldn't play quarterback against William & Mary on Sept. 6.
"He's practiced, he's practiced well so he will start on Saturday," O'Brien said following practicing. "It's bad that he plays a game or two then sits out, and things like that. It looks like he's at full strength, he's practiced well so we'll find out Saturday how he is."
Injuries have kept Wilson out of a little over 10 quarters of action this season. While it might be hard to duplicate coming back from his injury, Wilson's shining moment came during the East Carolina overtime victory. Midway through the second quarter, Wilson took ownership of the offense, and ended up passing for 210 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions), going 21 of 31, plus rushing for 26 yards on 12 carries.
With the offense built for Wilson's abilities, the Wolfpack will be able to open up the entire playbook against Boston College. Wilson will also have to ensure his own safety by not taking any unnecessary hits against the Eagles.
The offense seems to have a different spark when Wilson is playing at his best.
"It looked like it the way he played against Clemson and East Carolina [providing a spark] because he adds a little something to it with his legs," O'Brien said. "That may be the case and certainly with their pass rush, he's gonna have to take care of himself on Saturday."
O'Brien wouldn't disclose what Wilson was ailing from, but did say that the original prognosis was for him to miss more time.
"Initially, it was supposed to be a couple of weeks here and there, but within the space of a week, he has willed himself to be healthy and back ready to play," O'Brien said. "That is good for us.
"Everybody comes back from injuries differently, some faster than others, and a lot of it has to do with his mental outlook. He's so positive and everything, and wants to be a part of this that I just sincerely believe he willed himself to get back on the football field."
O'Brien said Wilson spent the week off last week in the training room trying to get healthy, but went to the meetings and spent time at the practices, and did some conditioning.
Different year, different teams: Boston College took advantage of an astonishing seven turnovers to crush NC State 37-17 last year in Boston.
O'Brien said so much has changed since the two teams have met, with the emotions between the BC players and their former coaches perhaps not as sky-high this Saturday.
"I think our football team has changed tremendously from last year to this year, though maybe our record might not show it," O'Brien said. "Looking at our execution on offense and defense, we are a much better team today than where we were a year ago today.
"Last year, the game was the second game of the year. I wasn't even a year removed. I think I can safely say that I knew more about their team than I did about my team. Now, I know more about my team than their team."
O'Brien hasn't detected much change in the BC defense, which is coached by defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who stayed with the Eagles under coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who is also a former O'Brien assistant coach.
"Defensively they are the same," O'Brien said. "They are still very powerful up front. They have really great linebackers. Offensively, they've change to the spread offense, which is the soup du jour of college football today. So, they are more of that. Who knows what we'll see on Saturday."
O'Brien looks forward to talking to some of his former players after the final horn sounds.
"Of course I'll talk to them," O'Brien said. "If they want to talk, we'll talk. I don't have any problem with them. They are all my guys too."
Russell Wilson, QB
Anthony Hill, TE, Pectoralis strain
Julian Williams, LT, Shoulder Injury.
Alan-Michael Cash, DT, Knee surgery
Curtis Crouch, OG, Foot injury
Nate Irving, LB, Ankle injury
Geron James, WR, Ankle injury;
Out for the season: Toney Baker, HB - Knee surgery; Donald Bowens, WR - Lower back stress fractures; Matt Kushner, TE - Knee injury; Javon Walker, S - Knee surgery