Camp O'Brien: QB Battle Down to Three

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media after the Wolfpack's Tuesday practice and began by addressing the battle for the starting quarterback position.

NC State's quarterback search is officially down to three. Senior Daniel Evans and freshmen Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon made the first cut. The trio received all the snaps in the Wolfpack's recent scrimmage and will do the same for the final two.

"We're going to go with the same three guys," said head coach Tom O'Brien. "It's down to those three and we're going to give them the work on Friday night and see where it goes on Saturday."

Will it be Wilson?

Through two scrimmages, Glennon has attempted the most passes, followed by Wilson and Evans, possibly suggesting the true freshman is receiving a long look. While refusing to specifically discuss his quarterbacks individually, O'Brien did point out that they are going to start the player who gives them the best chance to win, regardless of class.

"I don't have anything to say about them individually," said O'Brien. "The idea is to find a guy who we think we can win with. We made that decision [to cut it to three]. Those three guys all have something we like about them, and it's all down to how they perform in these next two scrimmages."

NC State will have a two-a-day practice on Friday with the evening session being a scrimmage. Saturday the Wolfpack will hold its annual Meet The Pack Day.

Leonard Will Play
Senior Robbie Leonard, a former walk on, is listed at the starter at strongside linebacker, and that isn't any ploy to motivate someone else or hide a newcomer. At 6-foot and 205 pounds, Leonard will likely be one of the smallest linebackers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. According to O'Brien, the ex-safety is "perfect" for what that position needs to do in the Wolfpack's defensive scheme.

"[He is] very similar to the kids we had at BC that played the field linebacker position," said O'Brien. "It's almost a hybrid position. You still need the two bigger guys inside, but the guy in the field is a half linebacker, half strong safety type. Looking at him last year, I don't think he could play in the secondary for us and wouldn't have played for us this year, but it's a perfect position for him with what his talents are."

"It's a perfect
position for him."

As a junior, Leonard played sparingly for the Wolfpack. Mainly a special teams contributor, he saw action from scrimmage in eight games last season at free safety. In for a career-high 13 snaps versus Clemson, he tallied eight tackles in that contest. In the offseason, he added nearly 20 pounds and moved to linebacker during spring practice. O'Brien doesn't appear to be concerned with his size. College football has evolved into more spread offenses and that requires defenses to have players at linebacker who can cover and play in space.

"Unless somebody lines up in two tights ends and two backs and wants to go smashmouth, that's the only time he's got to be in there to play run defense," said O'Brien. "He can do that... he's not going to do it 65 plays, but nobody plays that way in football anymore.

"With all the wideouts, everybody has the field spread. He's wide to the field so he's got to have skills to be a pass-cover, he's got to understand the passing game, which he did at strong safety, and he's got to come in and get in the box when the ball is run. It's similar to what he did [last year], but now he's six yards closer to the line of scrimmage than he used to be."

O'Brien started utilizing the current defensive scheme following his second season at Boston College when the Eagles went 4-7. The next year, his team finished 8-4 and earned its first bowl appearance.

"After my second year, we changed the defense," O'Brien said. "We've had success with that for a long time. We went out this year in the spring, a couple of coaches went to a couple of different places. More and more people are getting to that type of play so it kind of suited what we did at BC.

"You've got to get into some type of substitution defense. You're almost in nickel defense all the time now anyways."

Baker, Johnson Out Indefinitely
Head coach Tom O'Brien stated after Tuesday's practice that redshirt junior tailback Toney Baker and junior college transfer Clem Johnson had surgeries the past couple of days.

"He's on the shelf
for a while."

"We've had two surgeries here in the last couple of days," said O'Brien. "Toney Baker has had surgery to clear out some things in his knee so he's on the shelf for a while until he comes back from that.

"Clem Johnson broke his jaw in the scrimmage so he's out for maybe the year."

Johnson, a junior college transfer from Valley Forge, was in the mix for major playing time at safety. The talented athlete might have opened the season as the starter at boundary safety.

"We brought him in here for a purpose," said O'Brien. "The way he was playing, he would have been the starter at safety for us... with the way he was going. It's a big loss for us right now."

Johnson, who enrolled with three years to play two seasons, could likely redshirt.

"I believe he has a redshirt year," O'Brien said. "If he doesn't... the thing with the jaw is you don't want to eat and you lose all that weight. All that problem with trying to get substance in him. He'll start all over once it heals, which is a lengthy process anyways."

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