Expectations for the upcoming season are high, with some media members picking the Wolfpack as a dark horse team to win the ACC's Atlantic Division. Regardless of hype or expectations, redshirt sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson said he and the team is just ready to go.
"It's definitely exciting to play South Carolina, they are a great team and they have a great coach," Wilson said at a press conference Tuesday. "It's going to be a great atmosphere and that's big time. They want to win, we want to win. It's going to be on national TV, that's the exciting part."
The excitement was just as palpable for the 2008 season opener in South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium. And midway through the second quarter, the Wolfpack had lived up to the hype by hanging right with the Gamecocks. Then Wilson took a vicious hit, suffered a grade three concussion, and had to be carted off the field.
The concussion may or may not have had a huge impact on the overall outcome of the 2008 season, but it certainly affected the team's offensive rhythm for the first few weeks. For Wilson, the injury is something he has left in the past and something he doesn't think about as he prepares to face South Carolina in a season opener – again.
"We were working hard and everything and then the incident happened, but that's in the past," Wilson said. "I'm not really worried about last year or anything. It was just a freak accident."
Although Wilson may not think too much about the concussion, that injury and the knee injury which ended his season halfway through the PapaJohns.com Bowl caused some to question whether Wilson needed to alter his style to avoid getting hurt.
Wilson said his growth during the offseason and in summer camp should help him know when to get down. Tom O'Brien has said that Wilson, a baseball player for a large portion of his life, has even learned how to slide.
"I'm never afraid of doing certain things or trying to play to the best level I can," Wilson said. "I'm going to be smart, if I need to get down then I'll get down. A lot of that is watching film and understanding certain situations where I could have gotten down a lot earlier or understanding where I am in the game. A lot of that is maturing and the game slowing down for me."
Wilson also said the experience of playing last year and offseason film study had helped him progress and become a better, more prepared player entering 2009.
"Everybody has grown. Everybody is understanding what Coach O'Brien wants, what the rest of the staff wants us to and what we need to do to be successful. That definitely helps us take it to another level," he said.
As for the actual game, which airs on ESPN Sept. 3 at 7 p.m., Wilson said he can sense the excitement when he walks around campus.
"There is definite excitement around school but that's always at N.C. State. That's one of the reasons I came here," he said. "That's definitely a good feeling and you know that every time you go out on the practice field there is somebody who really wants you to win."
Wilson said one bonus from playing in big spots last year will be how he handles the added pressure of the upcoming season and playing in front of the home crowd at Carter-Finely Stadium next Thursday night.
"There will be excitement there but I think I'll be a lot more relaxed. Having those games that I did play in and learning how to be a nice, relaxed, calm quarterback definitely helps," Wilson said. "I'm excited about that. Every game you play there is something new that happens and every time I come out of that locker room I feel a new excitement, a new jolt through my body and that's a positive thing."