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June 14, 2011
The wait is over for Wolfpack's Glennon
He arrived on campus as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in his recruiting class, one spot ahead of presumptive 2012 No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck. Even then, he had a familiar name as the younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. Now he has just won the starting job over Russell Wilson, a former All-ACC selection who led the conference in total offense and touchdown passes last season.
If that weren't enough, consider this recent comment from North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien explaining his decision.
"He's as talented as any quarterback that I've had," said O'Brien, who coached at Boston College from 1997-2006. "All those guys at BC, he's got as much or more talent as all of them."
One of those quarterbacks at BC, you might recall, was Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan.
Those kinds of references could put undue pressure on a typical player entering his first year as a starter. Glennon instead takes it in stride.
For one thing, he has heard the Ryan comparisons ever since he committed to play for the same coach. And anyone who has the brain power to earn his college degree in three years is smart enough to realize the relative worth of all this hyperbole.
"It doesn't change much for me," Glennon says. "I haven't performed like those guys have in game situations. Until I perform like that in a real game, it doesn't mean a whole lot."
The references to Ryan are natural, and not just because of the O'Brien connection. The quarterbacks have similar styles and temperaments, even if they don't have similar track records just yet.
But it's the comparisons to Wilson that could cause plenty of headaches for Glennon and O'Brien if the Wolfpack get off to a slow start.
Wilson, a first-team All-ACC quarterback in 2008 and a second-team selection last season, ranks eighth on the conference's career list in total offense (9,628) and third in touchdown passes (76). He led North Carolina State to a 9-4 record and Champs Sports Bowl title last fall, which explains why Glennon's promotion raised plenty of questions.
Of course, in some respects, it's equally surprising Glennon had to wait this long for his opportunity to run the Wolfpack's offense.
Glennon was much more highly touted than Wilson when he arrived on campus. As the No. 59 overall prospect in the 2008 recruiting class, Glennon was expected to compete for a starting job as a true freshman. The job instead went to Wilson, a redshirt freshman and former two-star recruit who would mature into one of the ACC's most dynamic performers.
"It turned into a tough situation for me, with him being one year older than me," Glennon says. "I learned a lot from him, learned a lot from the coaches. Obviously I would have liked to play earlier, but now that I still have two years left, I'm ready to go."
Glennon leaned on his family connections during that stretch.
Sean Glennon knew what it was like to play on a team that featured two talented quarterbacks. After working as Virginia Tech's clear-cut starter in his sophomore year, he spent his final two seasons splitting time with Tyrod Taylor.
"He was mostly saying to just be patient," Mike Glennon says. "My situation was kind of better than his. His situation happened at the end of his career and mine happened at the beginning. ... He knew it was all going to work out for me, so I needed to just be patient."
Wilson's emergence as a two-sport athlete complicated the situation. After the Colorado Rockies drafted him in the fourth round last summer, Wilson faced a dilemma about which sport to pursue. Wilson eventually signed a contract with the Rockies that allowed him to play minor-league baseball before rejoining the Wolfpack football team in time for 2010 season.
That meant Glennon would have to wait at least one more year.
"He thought this past year with Russell going off and playing baseball in the offseason, that there was a really good chance he was going to be the guy," Sean Glennon says. "He didn't know if Russell would stay playing baseball. When [Wilson] came back and ended up taking over the job, it was definitely disappointing for him.
"I'm sure there was a lot of frustration, but he's a guy who really doesn't show it too much."
While Wilson maintained throughout last season that he might play football again in 2011, it was generally assumed that the 2010 season would be his final one at North Carolina State. He had signed his baseball contract, he already had his degree and the Wolfpack honored him alongside all the football team's seniors before their final home game.
O'Brien indicated he was ready to turn the page when, on National Signing Day, he declared Glennon would be his starting quarterback that fall. At the time, most people figured Wilson's football career was over anyway.
O'Brien reiterated his comments during the spring, even as word spread that Wilson might want to play football again. The passing of the torch became official last month when North Carolina State granted Wilson a release allowing him to play football elsewhere
Glennon said he hadn't really asked Wilson about his plans because he wanted to protect his teammate's privacy. After Wilson was given his release, the two had a brief conversation in which they wished each other good luck and agreed to stay in touch.
Only time will tell if Glennon becomes a better quarterback than Wilson. It's already apparent that he's a much different quarterback from his predecessor.
Glennon is much more of a classic drop-back passer than Wilson, who rushed for 1,083 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past three seasons. Glennon, a 6-foot-6 junior, also is 7 inches taller than Wilson.
"There's not going to be a lineman standing in front of him who's taller than he is, and he can make every throw on the field," Sean Glennon says. "His arm was always a year or two ahead of mine. Combine that with the offense he's in and his height advantage and I really think, barring any injury, he's going to have a fantastic year."
Glennon needs that height and arm strength because he doesn't have the type of speed that allowed Wilson to make something happen when nobody's open downfield. Wilson rushed for at least 40 yards in 12 career starts. Glennon might not have a 40-yard rushing performance his entire career.
"I'm not the kind of guy who's going to be a huge playmaker with my feet," Glennon says. "I'll do the best I can to distribute the ball to our playmakers and let them do something with it. I think I throw the ball pretty well. I'm a pretty smart guy, and I work hard."
"Pretty smart"? That's an understatement.
Glennon still has two years of eligibility remaining, but he already has earned his finance degree. Academic achievement is one thing Glennon has in common with Wilson, who also graduated before his junior season.
Glennon clearly has a head for the game. He also certainly has the arm. But does he have the stomach for it? Not many first-year starting quarterbacks across the country will face the kind of pressure Glennon will encounter this fall as ACC followers wonder whether O'Brien made the right choice.
Then again, Glennon already has shown he has plenty of toughness. Glennon proved that much at Chantilly (Va.) Westfield, as he didn't have the direct path to stardom that his family ties and lofty ranking might suggest. He broke his throwing arm as a freshman and bounced back to make himself a Rivals100 prospect.
"He's the best thrower I've ever seen in high school, accuracy-wise," says former Westfield coach Tom Verbanic, who has coached high school football for 30 years.
Verbanic expects Glennon's arm strength and mental strength will help him live up to the lofty expectations.
"I know it's going to be a tough situation mentally, and that he'll be under scrutiny right away," Verbanic says. "But the thing is he really believes this is what he should be doing. His mental makeup is that he's very determined that he's going to succeed."
Glennon is ready to prove himself in Raleigh.
"I've always wanted to finish my career here at North Carolina State," he says. "I think between the quarterback coach [Dana Bible] and Coach O'Brien, this team's going to continue on the rise and win a lot of games. I think this offense and what I've been taught suits me the most to be successful."
Glennon can't wait to show how well this offense suits him. Frankly, he already has waited longer than expected.