Spencer Looking to Lead

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A year ago, N.C. State's offense was full of question marks. The most important question to most at the time was: Who will be the starting quarterback, and equally important, who will he have to throw to?

A year ago, N.C. State's offense was full of question marks. The most important question to most at the time was: Who will be the starting quarterback, and equally important, who will he have to throw to?

By the season's end, Russell Wilson emerged as a star and the ACC's premier quarterback. And though the Pack lost standout receiver Donald Bowens before the start of last season, his absence allowed sophomore Owen Spencer to emerge as the Wolfpack's top down-field threat.

Last season, Spencer led State in receptions (31), receiving yards (691), receiving touchdowns (5), and averaged 53.2 receiving yards per game, which ranked seventh in the ACC.

He also led the league in yards-per-catch, as he averaged a staggering 22.3 yards per reception. The next closest among starting wide receivers was North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks, who averaged 18 yards per catch.

Though the 2008 season was a breakout year for the Leland, N.C. native, it came at a price. Despite his success, Spencer was widely criticized for several dropped passes in key games last season that would have resulted in touchdowns. According to Spencer, it was a trying time in what was otherwise a "wonderful" season in terms of his personal goals.

"I went through a slump, a game-and-a-half slump," Spencer said. "But that's going to come. Even the pros drop balls, but it's how you bounce back. I just prayed about it and didn't let it get to me. But having the coaching staff and my teammates rally around me in those hard times, it was really comforting. It gave other guys the opportunity to step up as well."

Coach Tom O'Brien said he expects consistency at quarterback to benefit the receiving corps, including Spencer.

"They've got some experience together now," O'Brien said. "We really didn't lose anybody at that position who we're going to be playing with next year, so it looks like they're a little more on the same page with each other."

This spring, Spencer has taken on more of a leadership role. With receivers T.J. Graham, Darrell Davis, and Bowens all missing spring practice, Spencer and fellow redshirt junior Jarvis Williams have taken it upon themselves to set an example of excellence in spring practice for the younger players.

Spencer sees himself as an impact player on this year's team, though he knows there are no guarantees in terms of playing time.

"Our receiving corps is still young," he said. "When you feel as though you're the playmaker on the team, you want to be a leader in that position on and off the field."

Among those young receivers, Spencer said redshirt sophomore Jay Smith will likely be this year's breakout receiver.

"He is like the prototype of all our receivers," Spencer said of Smith. "He's big. He's not the tallest, he's not the fastest. He's kind of a complete receiver... and he's grown into his role. As you saw last season, he made key plays in key games."

Another nice addition will be redshirt freshman Mike Glennon, who Spencer has worked with quite a bit this spring. Though the Pack is in good hands with Wilson, Spencer says the Pack wouldn't miss a beat if the Pack needed to rely on Glennon.

"He's taking it and running with it," Spencer said. "When other quarterbacks go down, you just have to step in. It's all through preparation...Out here he's doing a great job, working hard. [Between] him and Russell, it's tough. They have some of the same qualities."

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