Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wolfpack looking for a QB to step up

After Justin Burke’s 30-yard touchdown pass to George Bryan on the final play gave the Red a 23-21 win against the White in N.C. State’s spring game, it’s clear the Wolfpack might have more decent options at quarterback than any other ACC team.

Problem is, each has a downside:

- Incumbent starter Daniel Evans is smart and has sparked the team to wins at times, but lacks athletic ability and missed the spring with a shoulder injury.

- Mike Glennon is an incoming freshman who’s among the most heralded quarterbacks in the nation, but it’s rare for a first-year player to take the field in August and win the starting job in just a few weeks.

- Harrison Beck started four games last fall and has a powerful arm but threw nine interceptions and two touchdown passes. He was 13-for-20 for 158 yards in a spring game in which no one threw an interception.

“Things did go good for me this spring,” he said. “One of my goals was to not turn the football over. ...I probably threw less than a handful of picks, probably, in the 15 practices, and that was my emphasis, to make good decisions and accurate throws.”

- The coaches like redshirt freshman Russell Wilson’s leadership ability, but he looked uncomfortable in the pocket in the spring game. He was 8-for-21 for 61 yards, but did run 25 yards to complete a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

“I think I made a couple moves for myself (this spring),” he said. “I’m not talking about the starting position. I’m talking about physically, mentally, learning how to play the game right.”

- Burke is bright and had a great spring game (17-for-24, 191 yards, two touchdowns) but was behind Evans and Beck on the depth chart last season.

Coach Tom O’Brien won’t decide the starter until shortly before the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina. Any of the five probably is capable of leading N.C. State to a winning season in 2008.

But none appears ready to get the Wolfpack into the race for first place in an ACC Atlantic Division widely regarded as superior to the Coastal because of talented, veteran teams at Clemson and Wake Forest.

O’Brien might get N.C. State into a bowl game this season. He fell only one game short last season with a similar quarterback roster.

But the quarterback position is so important that loftier goals might be beyond the Wolfpack’s reach until Glennon spends a couple years in O’Brien’s system.

– Ken Tysiac