Obviously there has been a lot of discussion about former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson over the last few days. Problem is, most of us -- including me -- have only seen the kid play football a handful of times.
We can examine the stats all we want, but they only tell half of the story. None of us really have a good grasp on how he plays on the field. In other words, does he pass the eye test?
Fortunately, SBNation has a site for nearly every FBS school so we went to the guys at Backing The Pack, SBNation's North Carolina State blog, to give us the scoop on Russell Wilson.
Akula Wolf was gracious enough to answer our questions and even included some videos for us. Enjoy:
B5Q: Describe the events that led to Wilson's departure from North Carolina State. He says he wanted to stay there, so what happened? Was it a foregone conclusion that you were going to lose him after the 2010 season?
BTP: It wasn't a foregone conclusion that we were going to lose him, because Wilson has always maintained that he wants to play both sports. We knew he was going to join the Rockies for spring training and that he planned on playing baseball through the summer, as he did last year. The difference this time around, I think, has a lot to do with his replacement, Mike Glennon. Glennon probably would have transferred had Wilson returned, and so Wilson's indecision put Tom O'Brien in a difficult position. It wasn't just that O'Brien had an issue with Wilson's lack of full-time commitment to football, but that he also had to worry about potentially losing Mike Glennon.
Leading up to spring practice, O'Brien said that Glennon was his quarterback going forward. We have a lot of new faces at first string wide receiver, and some adjustments to the offense were necessary because Glennon is a completely different kind of QB, so I think O'Brien felt that it was important to make a decision based on those factors. He wanted his quarterback there in the spring to get as much work in with the receivers as possible.
O'Brien told Wilson that he could come back, but he'd be the backup quarterback if he did. Wilson wanted an equal opportunity to compete for the starting job if he came back, decided he wasn't going to get it, and requested his release.
B5Q: Describe Russell Wilson's game. In what areas does he excel and in what areas does he struggle?
BTP: Wilson has good speed, a good arm, his football IQ is high, and he can make fun things happen when he is improvising. See this run against Miami beginning around the 2:35 mark:
Or this run against UNC last season, beginning around 1:30:
As you can tell from the videos, he does not possess Tyrod Taylor/Denard Robinson elite-level speed, but he's quick and elusive enough to avoid pass rushers and make something from nothing, whether it's through the air or on the ground.
While I'm tossing out YouTube links, here's a couple more:
His size does affect his vision at times, and he can hold onto the ball longer than he should, but those are minor concerns.
B5Q: At least on paper, Wilson's stats suggest he was an inaccurate quarterback. But he also threw a ton of passes and at one point set the NCAA record for most consecutive quarterback without an interception. So which is it?
BTP: I'm not entirely sure how you're defining inaccurate here, but in any case, I don't think that's a fair assessment. He completed 58-59% of his passes in the last two years at NC State, which is not elite efficiency, but far from inaccurate. I think his accuracy in terms of putting the ball where it needs to be is good and he throws a good, consistent deep ball. In a certain sense he actually hurt himself with his good decision making, and what I mean by that is, he threw a lot of balls out of bounds when he didn't like what he saw down field, which obviously didn't do his completion percentage any favors.
His INT totals have risen, but so have his pass attempts, as you pointed out. If you look at the percentage of his throws that resulted in INTs, they're consistent in 2009 and 2010, and both percentages are lower than Tolzien's in 2010, just to give you a basis for comparison. He threw the ball 40 times a game last year, probably forced more throws than he did early in his career, but his job was tougher because he was asked to do so much.
B5Q: What kind of offense does North Carolina State run? Did Wilson have a good offense line there and how were his receiving options? In other words, how much was NC State's 9-4 record a product of Wilson's play?
BTP: It's not 100% spread, but it's pretty close, especially last year. Lots of shotgun, one-back sets to take advantage of Wilson's talents as well as an experienced receiving corps. State's coaches weren't keen on Russell Wilson carrying the football on designed plays very often (he's suffered a major knee injury and concussion in his career), so most of his runs were improvised.
I'd call the offensive line solid but unspectacular, and he had a lot of talent and experience to work with at receiver. Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer were go-to guys as seniors in 2010, and both were multi-year starters. He also had George Bryan, who is one of the best pass catching tight ends in the ACC. So NC State's success, offensively and overall, was primarily tied to Wilson's arm and those receivers.
B5Q: How do you think Wilson would fit in Wisconsin's pro-style, run-first offense? He would obviously be throwing the ball less and handing it off more. Do you think that might actually make him an even better quarterback?
BTP: It would be an adjustment for sure since he isn't used to taking so many snaps under center, but I don't think it would take him long to get comfortable and play well, especially with the sort of run support he'd get from that group of RBs. He never had a strong ground game to complement him at NC State. With the run support and change-of-pace, play-action passing game, there's a good chance he'd be more efficient than he was in Raleigh.