Spring practice is wrapping up across the country and we are a little over four months away from kickoff. To make the time go a little faster, I will count down my top 50 teams one team at a time.
No. 49 Kentucky Wildcats
No. 48 NC STATE WOLFPACK
Finding a replacement for Philip Rivers has proven to be difficult for NC State. Making matters worse is that Rivers has been gone since the end of the 2003 season.
Two coaches and several quarterbacks later, the Wolfpack entered spring practice with the quarterback position fairly settled.
After starting the 2008 season 2-6 and 0-4 in ACC play, State rallied to win its last four games of the regular season, including wins over ranked Wake Forest and North Carolina, behind the strong play of redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson was the first freshman to be named first-team All-ACC at quarterback. He threw an interception in September against Clemson, but he ended the season on a streak of 249 consecutive passes without a pick.
Health could be a concern for Wilson after tearing a tendon in his knee in the bowl game, but redshirt freshman Mike Glennon could be even better.
Glennon has looked worthy of the hype thus far and will be a capable replacement if Wilson has setbacks in his rehabilitation.
An improved running game should help whoever is under center for NC State. Though the Wolfpack lost leading rusher Andre Brown, they do return Jamelle Eugene—the team MVP from 2007—and injury-riddled senior Toney Baker.
Defensively, the line should set the tone. The Pack expect to have three senior starters, including end Willie Young who led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss last season.
The biggest weakness for a defense that returns seven starters is in pass defense. State ranked 96th last season in pass defense and must improve starting at the corner position. DeAndre Morgan and Dominique Ellis will find most likely start at corner and must make an impact.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Mike Glennon: After struggling to find a replacement for Rivers, the Wolfpack suddenly have Wilson and Glennon—a redshirt freshman and former Rivals100 prospect—as his backup.
Terrell Manning: Manning redshirted as a true freshman last season after injuring his knee during his senior season in high school. He could move into the starting strong side linebacker spot this spring.
Jay Smith: Smith, a sophomore, gradually improved over the course of the 2008 season. However, he still needs to do some work to get into a receiver rotation that didn't lose anyone off the two-deep.
THE TOM O'BRIEN RECRUITING PHILOSOPHY
Not very many coaches will admit they care about recruiting rankings, but Tom O'Brien is especially ambivalent and somehow you believe him.
Any State fan looking for the Wolfpack to fixate on five-star athletes and flash-and-dash players are likely to be disappointed every year.
O'Brien is a guy who knows what kind of players he wants and what kind of players he can win with. It makes no difference how they are ranked. O'Brien couldn't care less.
"If we like a guy, we like a guy. I don't care if you like him or not," O'Brien told the Raleigh News & Observer.
"It (ranking teams) is important because a lot of people pay attention to it, I guess. But that's never been one thing that's been of great importance to us. We don't care what they came in as, but they better leave as five-star players," he said.
UP NEXT: The Big Ten checks in at No. 47. You may be surprised to see who made the list.