Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wilson 'torn up' about leaving N.C. State

A day after N.C. State announced it has released him from his scholarship, former Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson said he didn’t want to leave the school.

“I really want the fans, N.C. State alumni and most of all my teammates to know if I had been given an equal opportunity to compete for the starting job, I would not have asked for my release,” Wilson said Saturday in a telephone interview. “I am a competitor.”

Wilson, a three-year starter, is playing minor league baseball for the Asheville Tourists in the Colorado Rockies organization this summer. He said he wanted to come back to N.C. State this fall and attempt to lead the Wolfpack to an ACC championship.

He said he didn’t want to have the starting job handed to him on a silver platter, but wanted an equal chance to compete for it. Wilson said it didn’t appear that he would be given that chance.

Coach Tom O’Brien responded Saturday with a statement read over the phone to a reporter.

“As I conveyed yesterday, I have had several conversations with Russell,” O’Brien said. “He knew the importance of his time commitment to our football team heading into this offseason, and how things might change if he was not able to make that commitment.

“As I also communicated, I respect his competitiveness and his contributions to our program and only wish him the best.”

Wilson said he respects what O’Brien wanted to do with the football team in terms of going forward, but just wanted a chance to compete for the job.

Mike Glennon, a talented but untested junior who led the team through spring practice, will be the starter. Wilson’s goal is to play major league baseball and NFL football, and he said he needs an opportunity to play in 2011 to impress NFL scouts.

“I respect Coach O’Brien and I’ve learned a lot from him and his staff,” Wilson said, “and I’m a better football player for that. I just wanted to have an opportunity to fully compete for the job.”

He said he is concentrating now on baseball, but imagines he will be getting lots of calls from college teams interested in his services this fall for his final year of eligibility.

Wilson is a graduate student who obtained his bachelor’s degree in communications in three years and therefore can transfer to a Football Bowl Subdivision school and play immediately. The terms of his release prevent him from transferring to a school that’s in the ACC or is on N.C. State’s schedule.

After leading the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record and a win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl last season, Wilson ranks second in ACC history in touchdown responsibility with 93 scores. He is No. 8 in ACC history in total offense with 9,628 yards.

In the ten-minute phone call Saturday, he was candid about his emotions after the announcement. He said he is proud to be an N.C. State graduate and enjoyed going to graduate school there.

He said he is “really torn up” about leaving, and is grateful to the N.C. State fans and his teammates.

“N.C. State means the world to me,” Wilson said. “It’s heartbreaking to me that I had to go.”

Ken Tysiac

Friday, April 29, 2011

Pack stunner: Wilson released by N.C. State

RALEIGH – There will be no quarterback controversy at N.C. State in the fall.

Junior Mike Glennon’s status as the Wolfpack’s starter was cemented at 5 p.m. Friday when coach Tom O’Brien issued a stunning announcement that Russell Wilson has been granted his release to play football for another school in 2011 if he so chooses.

According to the terms of the release, Wilson cannot transfer to another ACC school or a school on N.C. State’s schedule.

Wilson, a three-year starter who ranks second in ACC history in touchdown responsibility with 93 scores, is playing professional baseball for the Asheville Tourists and did not participate in spring practice.

"Russell and I have had very open conversations about his responsibilities respective to baseball and football,” coach Tom O’Brien said in a statement released by the school. “While I am certainly respectful of Russell's dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to N.C. State football.

“My staff and I thank him for his contributions as a member of Wolfpack football and to this university and wish him only the best in the future."

Last season, Wilson played pro baseball and came back to N.C. State at the beginning of fall camp. He went on to earn second-team All-ACC honors and help the Wolfpack earn a 9-4 record and a Champs Sports Bowl win over West Virginia.

Wilson was playing baseball for the Tourists in Rome, Ga., on Friday evening. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

N.C. State released a statement attributed to Wilson.

“Although I remain undecided on the option of playing college football this coming season, I believe it is in the best interest of the players and coaches involved to end any speculation of my return to the Wolfpack,” the statement read. “It has become apparent that the time has come for the program to move on without me.”

The statement expressed gratitude to N.C. State and its fans. It said Wilson has not closed the door on pro football and plans to explore and consider all his options.

Wilson has often said it is his dream to play major league baseball and NFL football. Last season, he posted 3,998 yards of total offense, the fourth-highest single-season total in ACC history.

Friday’s announcement was the culmination of a slow widening of a gap between O’Brien and Wilson. In February, O’Brien said N.C. State was moving on without Wilson, but said the door was open to his return.

During spring practice, O’Brien said that if Wilson returned, it would be in a backup position. At the Wolfpack Club booster caravan stop Thursday night in Raleigh, O’Brien compared Glennon to Matt Ryan, Tim Hasselbeck and Matt Hasselbeck, who played for O’Brien at Boston College and went on to become NFL starters.

Where Wilson at 5-foot-11 was known for his ability to scramble as well as throw, Glennon is 6-foot-6 and a classic dropback passer similar to those NFL quarterbacks.

“I think he looked at this spring as an opportunity to take hold of the position and take the job,” O’Brien said. “And that’s what he did.”
O’Brien praised Wilson for his contributions to N.C. State, but also seemed to be shutting the door on him.

“He [Wilson] had a choice to make, and we had a choice to make,” O’Brien said. “Mike Glennon made my choice a heck of a lot easier.”

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 28, 2011

O'Brien enjoys 4-0 record vs. Heels

RALEIGH - At the beginning of his speech at the Wolfpack Club caravan Thursday night, N.C. State football coach Tom O’Brien was asked a simple question:

As head coach at N.C. State, what’s it like to lose to North Carolina?

“I don’t know,” O’Brien said.

“Don’t intend to find out, either.”

O’Brien is 4-0 against the Tar Heels as N.C. State’s coach and coming off a 9-4 season with a win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl. He poked a few jabs at the Wolfpack’s rivals:

- “In 1982 I learned a simple rule,” he said. “The ABC [Anybody But Carolina] rule. And I haven’t forgotten it.”

- He brought up confrontations between N.C. State and Tar Heel players at the last two games: “The greatest thing is, the discipline that’s reflected in this football team, we didn’t retaliate either time,” he said.

O’Brien also offered another glowing endorsement of quarterback Mike Glennon. He said Glennon has as much talent as Tim Hasselbeck, Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Ryan, who played quarterback for O’Brien at Boston College and went on to become NFL starters.

Incumbent starter Russell Wilson is playing pro baseball for the Asheville Tourists this summer but hasn’t ruled out returning to football. But O’Brien made a strong statement in favor of Glennon.

“He [Wilson] had a choice to make and we had a choice to make,” O’Brien said. “Mike Glennon made my choice a heck of a lot easier.”

Ken Tysiac

Former Pack center Larsen saves kayakers

The sea was getting dangerously choppy when former N.C. State center Ted Larsen heard Coast Guard boater in distress signal Wednesday.

Larsen was fishing with his girlfriend in a 24-foot boat and responded quickly. He located and rescued three teen-age kayakers in the Gulf of Mexico off Honeymoon Island near Tampa, but dismissed the idea that he was a hero.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Now awaiting the start of his second season as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard, Larsen has been spending time in Raleigh working out at N.C. State. He had gone home to Florida to take a break for a week when he ran across the kayakers.

He said they were “pretty happy” when he delivered them safe on dry land.

“It was getting pretty hairy out there,” Larsen said.

Now he will continue waiting out the NFL lockout after a successful rookie season. Drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patriots, he was waived at the end of training camp and went to the Buccaneers, where he started 11 games as a rookie.

“I’m trying to improve every day, just improve off the stuff I did last season,” Larsen said.

No matter what he does on the field, he won’t often have a more satisfying feeling than he did Wednesday.

Ken Tysiac

Wilson receives scholar athlete honor

One famous Richmond native received an award named after another athlete from Richmond when N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson was selected as the Arthur Ashe Jr. Male Sports Scholar of the Year by Diversity: Issues in Higher Education.

Wilson was a 4.0 GPA business student and played pro baseball and college football last year. He led N.C. State to a 9-4 record and was named most valuable player in a Champs Sports Bowl win over West Virginia.

He led the ACC in total offense with 3,998 yards as a junior and was selected

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Belk Bowl gets prime time kickoff

Charlotte’s bowl game, newly renamed the Belk Bowl, announced this morning that it will kick off in prime time for the first time in its 10-year history.

The bowl will kick off at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at Bank of America Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

"With this being the first year of Belk’s title sponsorship, we are looking forward to our best year ever," bowl executive director Will Webb said in a statement. "Playing the game at night for the first time will be a great opportunity to expand the reach of the game, both in the Charlotte community and nationally on ESPN. We are very proud that we have been chosen to kick off a week of primetime bowl action.”

In 2002, the bowl made its debut as the Continental Tire Bowl. It has been known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl for the last six years, but Charlotte recently hooked up with a new sponsor in Belk to help cover an increased payout to the ACC that helped the bowl move up in the ACC selection order.

Meineke now sponsors the game in Houston that used to be known as the Texas Bowl.

Charlotte's bowl has averaged almost 60,000 fans a year over its nine years.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Judge rules against UNC in N&O lawsuit

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill withheld documents that should have been provided to The News & Observer in response to an open-records lawsuit filed by a consortium of media groups led by The N&O and The Charlotte Observer against the university, Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled today.

In a memorandum regarding his decision, Manning wrote, "FERPA does not provide a student with an invisible cloak so that the student can remain hidden from public view while enrolled at UNC."

The university cited FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as justification for withholding phone records and parking tickets requested by The N&O.

Manning did rule that the identities of student tutors working with athletic teams are protected by FERPA. Lawyers for UNC provided the plaintiffs with a list of non-student tutors at the beginning of a hearing Friday.

Manning directed attorneys representing the media groups to prepare an order implementing his decision. The university will then have the right to appeal the order.

Still to be decided is one major area of the lawsuit, which is the request for all documents relating to investigations into the UNC football program. Manning and the lawyers for both sides agreed at Friday's hearing that it was necessary first to decide the three other areas of dispute -- phone records, parking tickets and tutor identities.

The N&O and Charlotte Observer, both McClatchy newspapers, joined in the suit with the DTH Media Corp., which publishes the UNC-CH student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel; News 14 Carolina, a cable TV station operated by Time Warner Entertainment-Advance/Newhouse Partnership; WTVD Television; Capitol Broadcasting; The Associated Press; and Media General Operations.

The suit names UNC-CH chancellor Holden Thorp, athletic director Dick Baddour, football coach Butch Davis and Jeff McCracken, head of the UNC-CH public safety department, as defendants.

-- Luke DeCock

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Defense strong in shortened Wolfpack spring game

RALEIGH - Terrell Manning raced back an interception 53 yards for a touchdown and Tyler Brosius passed 1 yard to Tyler Purvis for a score as the Red took a 13-3 win over the White in N.C. State's Kay Yow Spring Football Game.

The game at Carter-Finley Stadium was called with 4:17 left in the third quarter because of threatening weather.

The Red team, anchored by the first-team defense, constantly pressured White quarterback Mike Glennon and the first-team offense. The Red, which led 13-3 at the half, tipped three Glennon passes at the line in the first half, and linebacker Audie Cole also had a pick that set up a TD.

Glennon was 21-of-40 for 182 yards and was sacked three times. His longest throw was a 30-yard completion to tight end George Bryan. The White's only score came on a 33-yard field goal by Ellis Flint.

The defensive front of J.R. Sweezy, Jeff Reiskamp, junior-college transfer McKay Frandsen and Markus Kuhn put a strong pass rush on Glennon. Cole, Manning and the other linebackers got a lot of hands on throws and the secondary came up with some big hits.

Brosius was 11-of-17 for 95 yards and was sacked four times. Daniel Imhoff also got a few series with the Red and was 2-of-6 for 8 yards and an interception

Purvis, a sophomore fullback, had three catches for 45 yards for the Red, including a 34-yarder. Halfback James Washington rushed for 47 yards for the White and caught six balls for 32 yards -- all in the first half.

Official attendance for the game was 13,139.

-- Chip Alexander

Defense dominates Deacons' spring game

   A few notes from Wake Forest's spring football scrimmage Saturday at BB&T Field:

  -- Running back Josh Harris had the only touchdown, going 45 yards for a score in a scrimmage delayed for approximately 45 minutes due to bad weather. Harris wound up leading the Wake Forest rushers with 12 carries for 85 yards. Nick Knott ran nine times for 27 yards;

  -- Defense dominated the game, piling up six sacks and limiting the offensive consistency;

  -- Ted Stachitas, a redshirt junior, had a solid day at quarterback, completing eight of 11 passes for 73 yards. Rising sophomore Tanner Price completed seven of 14 passes for 49 yards. Coach Jim Grobe said he feels as good about the quarterback position as he can at this point;

  -- Michael Campanaro led the receivers with five catches for 34 yards;

   “We’ve been more competitive this spring than others,” said Grobe in a school release about the game.  “It’s been full of electricity in the air this spring.  I think that’s a good thing for us.  I think we’ll be better defensively.  I think we can be better offensively but we’ve got to be more consistent.  I feel a heckuva lot better than I did at the start of spring practice.”

-- Ron Green Jr.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tar Heels to open 2012 season vs. Elon

Elon University will visit North Carolina to open the 2012 college football season, the school's athletics department announced. 

It will be the first meeting between FCS Elon and the Tar Heels and just the fourth game ever against a FBS team for the Phoenix.

Elon opens the 2011 season with a game at Vanderbilt on Sept. 3 in Nashville. The Phoenix play Georgia Tech in 2013. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tar Heels' Ryan Houston to have surgery

North Carolina running back Ryan Houston (above), a Butler High graduate, will have surgery Thursday on a broken scapula he suffered in the Tar Heels' spring football game Saturday, according to Inside Carolina's website.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pack's Lucas to miss the rest of spring

N.C. State backup middle linebacker Sterling Lucas will miss the remainder of spring practice after having a minor surgery, coach Tom O'Brien said this morning.

Lucas is expected to be back in the fall, O'Brien said.

As a junior last season, Lucas made 19 tackles and played in all 13 games. He was listed as the backup to Audie Cole on the spring organizational chart.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, April 2, 2011

First spring scrimmage: Tom O'Brien Q&A

After holding N.C. State's first spring scrimmage on a blustery afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium, coach Tom O'Brien fielded questions from a select few, brave reporters who weren't afraid to take their finger off the pulse of the Wolfpack's basketball coaching search for a few hours.

O'Brien talked about N.C. State's linebackers, offensive line and wide receivers. Here are excerpts from his post-scrimmage interview:

Q: How did the reshuffled linebacking corps look?

A: [Terrell] Manning’s comfortable. He’s playing his spot. He’s playing a little better. Audie Cole and D.J. [Green] have some things to work out. It’s the first time for them in those situations. Not having looked at the tape and studied it, I would think they’ll be a lot better next Saturday once they go through this tape and understand what’s going on in terms of how they relate to what the offense is doing and relating to how they have to get where they have to get to.

Q: [Camden] Wentz and [Zach] Allen and R.J. [Mattes] give you a center to the right side [of the offensive line] that’s pretty solid. How is the left side progressing so far?

A: [Mikel] Overgaard’s playing, and he started a couple games until he got hurt last year. He’s got some experience because he’s been around. [Duran] Christophe played last year. He backed up and played the whole bowl game. So those two kids have been in games. Maybe not as the other three, but that’s valuable coming back for the confidence level and having been in games. All the rest of the freshmen, they’re learning. They’re trying to get lined up, trying to understand where they’re supposed to go. We’re trying to be as basic as we can with them, but you have to test them and move on because each and every week there is a challenge. Those young kids, [Robert] Crisp played a little bit but not as much as, say, [Tyson] Chandler and those other guys. They’ve got to get out there. They’ve got to get their feet wet. They’ve got to get their nose bloodied and they’ve got to learn.

Q: Did you see any flashes from your early enrollee, [defensive lineman] McKay Frandsen?

A: I think he’s solid. He hopefully will give us what Akinniyi gave us last year. That’s what we’re hoping for. Or he’ll be more like [Natanu] Mageo coming in as a JC guy, where Natanu his first year was kind of there but really played a lot better his second time around, his second year. I think he’s going to be a guy that right now we’re looking at him as maybe a 20-, 25-play-a-game guy. It will be up to him to work his way into getting more plays. It will be up to him.

Q: What about your wide receivers? You need somebody to step forward.

A: I don’t think anybody has right now, and that’s something that we have to get done. Tough day out there, windy day out there catching the ball and stuff. And same thing. For a lot of those guys, it’s their first time in action. And it’s not practice. It’s not a drill. They have to go and get lined up and catch the ball. They’re going against some guys now that have played in the secondary, and that’s a good challenge for them. It’s going to make them – it’s all about competing, so as they get better, our secondary gets better. And the secondary has got to make them better.

Ken Tysiac

RB Greene posts big numbers in Pack scrimmage

On a windy day it was probably natural that a running back would step forward and post the most impressive statistics in N.C. State’s first football spring scrimmage.

Sophomore running back Mustafa Greene, who was the Wolfpack’s leading rusher in 2010, carried seven times for 61 yards and a touchdown and added one reception for 10 yards.

Coach Tom O’Brien said the Wolfpack’s veterans – the team returns eight defensive starters and six starters on offense – demonstrated that they have benefited from their experience.

“The thing that’s obvious is that the guys that have played are at a different level right now than a lot of the young kids that haven’t been in games,” O’Brien said. “So as any first scrimmage, there’s a lot of things that show up that certainly will help us, direct us where we have to go.”

Brandon Barnes (9 rushes, 31 yards), Tony Creecy (5-26, 1 TD) and James Washington (10 rushes, 5 yards) also carried the ball in the scrimmage as the wind disrupted the passing game.

Junior quarterback Mike Glennon was 9-for-19 for 60 yards with one interception. Tyler Brosius, the redshirt freshman backup, was 6-for-14 for 24 yards with two interceptions.

Tobais Palmer led a wide receiving corps that O’Brien said needs to have leaders step forward. Palmer made three catches for 20 yards, and tight end George Bryan added two catches for 8 yards.

Safety Brandan Bishop led the defense with five tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage, and an interception. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn made five tackles, and tackle A.J. Ferguson had two quarterback sacks.

Ken Tysiac