Russell Wilson: The Next Face of the ACC

Joe BartonContributor IJuly 24, 2009

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #16 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack in action against the Florida State Seminoles during the game at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 16, 2008 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Many college football fans are unfamiliar with NC State Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson. In '08, was named Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Rookie of the Year; he was also the first freshman to be named First Team All-ACC quarterback.

Wilson's tenure got off to a slow start. In the opener versus South Carolina, Wilson took the field as the starter, but quickly left the game with a concussion. Wilson returned during the Wolfpack's third game against Clemson. He initially struggled to get acclimated to the starting role.

As the season progressed, Wilson got more comfortable. He led the Pack to a 6-6 record—5-4 in games started and completed—including an incredible four-game winning streak to finish the season. 

This gave the Pack their first bowl bid in three years. Against Rutgers, Wilson helped the Pack get out to a quick 17-6 lead versus Rutgers, but exited the game early with a knee injury. NC State went on to lose the game 29-23.

Through the course of the '08 season, Wilson showed an ability to lead a loose-knit team to a .500 record despite a difficult schedule. 

NC State will once again open this season with South Carolina. This time the game will be in Raleigh, and Wilson has year of experience under his belt.

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Make no mistake, Wilson could be college football's next great athletic quarterback. What Wilson lacks in stature (5-foot-11, 190 lbs.) he makes up for in speed and agility. At the same time, his intellectual prowess matches his superior athletic ability. 

The only statistical category that was questionable was his completion percentage, which was 54.5 percent in '08. This low percentage is attributed to his unwillingness to force passes into coverage. In situations of danger, Wilson ran out of the pocket and, if necessary, throw the ball away.

A benefit from this strategy was Wilson's low interception total—a mere one interception—in '08. He currently holds the active streak for most passes without an interception. The decision making skills that he demonstrated were those of a veteran quarterback.

Wilson will benefit from NC State's experience: all of his starting wide receivers and two of three tight ends return. NC State lost Andre Brown to the New York Giants, but will have talented backs in Jamelle Eugene, Toney Baker, Curtis Underwood, and newcomer Brandon Barnes. 

The big question is still the offensive line, which gained experience in '08 but still lacks great athletic ability and depth. Wilson's running skills do allow for the linemen to be less than perfect.

It seems like Wilson's only flaw is his ability to remain healthy; a product of his eagerness to leave the pocket. Teams target Wilson by trying to lay big hits on the small quarterback. It's something that, even in the best circumstances, can't be avoided. 

Nevertheless, Wilson is en route to a stellar '09 campaign and could potentially lead NC State to their first ACC title in 30 years.

Wilson, also a star shortstop on NC State's baseball team, and was initially drafted out of high school, but elected to go to college. Watching Wilson play both sports is like watching a work of art. 

Wilson truly showed his greatness in two football games last season against North Carolina and Miami (Fla). He played brilliantly against UNC in Chapel Hill, a team that every Pack fan relishes to the fullest extent. Given the possibility of a bowl bid, Wilson had enormous pressure to perform against Miami (Fla).

Wilson foiled the tough Hurricane defense on a 29-yard touchdown run that truly showed his ability to turn a broken play into a positive one. 

Wilson gives all Pack fans a hope that they haven't felt since the days of Philip Rivers. We are watching the beginning of a headlining college football star. 

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