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March 16, 2011

Glennon gets his turn at bat for NC State

North Carolina State is beginning the transition to the post-Russell Wilson era, even though its star quarterback hasn't made his likely departure official just yet.

Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien has said the team is operating under the assumption that Wilson will forgo his last season of eligibility to pursue a pro baseball career. Wilson, a second-team All-ACC selection last season and a first-team pick in 2008, played minor-league baseball in the Colorado Rockies' system last summer and hasn't indicated whether he intends to play football this fall.

Wilson's exit would mean the wait finally is over for Mike Glennon, a former Rivals100 prospect entering his fourth season in the program. Glennon redshirted in 2008 and spent the past two seasons backing up Wilson.

"Our plans are that he's not coming back," O'Brien said during a news conference last month. "We have to move forward with Glennon. We've planned for this day. Michael's ready."

Here's a look at where North Carolina State stands heading into spring practice.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT-A-GLANCE
NC State coach Tom O'Brien has been preparing for life without Russell Wilson.
THE BASICS
Coach: Tom O'Brien
Last season: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in the ACC Atlantic. Beat West Virginia 23-7 in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Spring dates: March 16-April 9.
RETURNING STARTERS
(minimum seven starts last season)
Offense (7): G Zach Allen, TE George Bryan, RB Dean Haynes (moving to safety), T R.J. Mattes, G Andrew Wallace, C Camden Wentz, QB Russell Wilson (likely to give up final season for pro baseball).
Defense (8): CB David Amerson, FS Brandan Bishop, LB Audie Cole, LB Terrell Manning, E Jeff Rieskamp, T J.R. Sweezy, CB C.J. Wilson, SS Earl Wolff.
Special teams: None.
Positions of strength

North Carolina State has one of the nation's best tight ends in George Bryan, who has earned first-team All-ACC honors in each of the past two seasons. The Wolfpack also return four starters along the offensive line, though they must do a better job of pass protection after allowing three sacks per game last season -- the most in the ACC. NC State has three promising performers in the secondary. SS Earl Wolff led the Wolfpack with 95 tackles, FS Brandon Bishop had a team-high four interceptions last season and CB David Amerson won a starting spot a year ago as a true freshman.

Help is needed

Bryan could get plenty of opportunities in the passing game because the Wolfpack lack proven wide receivers. NC State must replace the departed Owen Spencer (60 catches, 912 yards, four TDs), Jarvis Williams (52-713-5) and Darrell Davis (26-327-3). Coaches are high on QB Mike Glennon, but he could struggle in his first season as the starter because he doesn't have the benefit of relying on experienced receivers. NC State likes to play four defensive ends on any given Saturday, but Jeff Rieskamp is the only player back from last year's rotation. The Wolfpack also must break in a new kicker and punter.

3 guys to watch

DE McKay Frandsen: This former BYU walk-on spent the past two seasons at Snow College (Utah) before arriving at NC State in January. NCSU's lack of experience at end could allow Frandsen to make an impact in his first season with the Wolfpack.

QB Mike Glennon: Glennon, the No. 59 overall prospect -- and No. 3 pro-style quarterback -- in the 2008 recruiting class, finally should get his chance to run the offense, assuming Russell Wilson forgoes his last year of eligibility. Glennon is the younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. His size (6 feet 6) and arm strength make him an intriguing prospect. Because this is his fourth season in the program, Glennon should have a quicker adjustment than most first-year starting quarterbacks.

WR T.J. Graham: He caught 25 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns last season, making him one of the Wolfpack's most experienced wideouts. Graham, a senior, has plenty of big-play potential, but his ability to develop into a go-to receiver depends on whether he can improve his hands.

The pressure is on

DT Markus Kuhn: Kuhn, a senior, has an interesting background. He started playing football at the age of 15 in Germany and was 21 by the time he began his NC State career. After earning a decent amount of playing time in 2007 and '08, Kuhn redshirted in '09 and worked primarily as a backup last season. This represents his last chance to win a full-time starting job. J.R. Sweezy is the clear-cut starter at one tackle spot, leaving Kuhn and junior Brian Slay to compete for the other job.

The buzz

The likely quarterback transition doesn't represent the only change at North Carolina State this spring. O'Brien also has retooled his offensive staff. Everette Sands has arrived from The Citadel to take over as running backs coach for Jason Swepson, now the coach at Elon. Jim Bridge and Don Horton have switched responsibilities, so Horton will coach the tight ends and Bridge will work with the offensive line. It will be interesting to see whether the changes on the staff and at quarterback produce a more balanced offense. North Carolina State ranked 18th nationally in passing but 95th in rushing last season. The Wolfpack ended a string of four consecutive losing seasons in 2010 and have reason to believe they could build on that momentum and go bowling again if Glennon lives up to expectations.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.


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