06/30/11 — Opinion: Wilson may leave Wolfpack coach scratching head

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Opinion: Wilson may leave Wolfpack coach scratching head

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 30, 2011 1:47 PM

Wisconsin isn't in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Badgers don't have an ACC opponent on their 2011 football schedule.

Yet, Wisconsin could have quite an impact on the ACC race this fall.

Former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson announced on Monday he is transferring to Wisconsin. Wilson played three seasons for the Wolfpack and is eligible to play immediately as a graduate student after graduating early from N.C. State.

Wilson was released from his scholarship at N.C. State in early May, after he refused to give up his pursuit of minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization. A year ago, Wilson didn't report back to N.C. State from baseball until Aug. 1, a little more than a month before the season opener.

Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien said in February that N.C. State was moving on without Wilson, but acknowledged that the door was open to his return. During spring practice, O'Brien said that if Wilson returned, it would be in a backup position. O'Brien has named 6-foot-6 red-shirt junior Mike Glennon the Wolfpack's starting quarterback.

Wilson threw for more than 8,500 yards in his three seasons in Raleigh with 76 touchdown passes. He rushed for 1,089 yards and 17 touchdowns. In 2008, Wilson became the first freshman in conference history to be named the first-team All-ACC quarterback.

Last season, Wilson led the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record and a victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. He led the ACC in total offense with 307.5 yards per game and in passing yards per game with 274.1.

Wilson joins a Wisconsin offense that led the Big Ten with 41.5 points a game in 2010. There will be pressure on Wilson to succeed in a conference that has seen its national profile diminish in recent years. The good news for Wilson is he won't be expected to do it alone.

Badgers tailbacks John Clay and James White each rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, while combining to score 28 touchdowns. Montee Ball finished with 996 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Both Ball and White return this season.

The Badgers went 11-2 in 2010 and lost 21-19 to TCU in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin plays Big Ten newcomer Nebraska at home and doesn't play its first true road game until an Oct. 22 visit to Michigan State.

Glennon has attempted just 52 passes in two collegiate seasons. He's completed 33 attempts with one touchdown and two interceptions. Despite having a schedule that doesn't become difficult until late October, Glennon will be expected to perform immediately.

There aren't many options behind Glennon on N.C. State's depth chart. The Wolfpack face Florida State, North Carolina and Clemson during three of their final five games.

If Glennon gets injured or struggles early, O'Brien won't just feel the heat for the losses his team endures on the field. There could be plenty of second-guessing about the elusive quarterback he let scramble right out of town.