NC State had to move on. Quarterback Russell Wilson was phenomenal for the Wolfpack last season, but coach Tom O’Brien could not keep guessing as to whether Wilson would choose another year of football over playing baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization. Besides, he has a pretty darn good quarterback set to take over this season in Mike Glennon and he felt it in the best interest of his team to take the uncertainty out of who would be playing the position. O’Brien went as far as to say earlier this offseason that if Wilson chose to come back, he’d be Glennon’s backup.
Released from his NC State scholarship, Wilson has drawn interest from several teams including the defending champs. ESPN.com’s Joe Schad is reporting that, according to a source, Wilson visited Auburn today to meet with the coaches regarding the possibility of playing for the Tigers this season. Wilson has a year of eligibility remaining and, because he graduated, would be eligible to play right away.
Wilson threw for 3,563 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last year for the Wolfpack. He rushed for 435 yards on 143 attempts for nine touchdowns last year as well. It was the second season in a row that he surpassed the 3,000-yard passing barrier; he threw 31 touchdown passes in 2009.
Auburn is looking for a quarterback capable of replacing Heisman-winner Cam Newton, who was picked first overall by the Carolina Panthers on April 28. So far, it hasn’t proven an easy task as neither sophomore Barrett Trotter nor freshman Clint Moseley has run away with the competition. What’s more, Kiehl Frazier will enter the race in the summer, giving the Tigers three inexperienced passers vying for the starting job. Trotter and Moseley have reportedly shown improvement and continue to develop, but for a Tigers team fresh off a national title and hoping to again compete in the ultra-competitive SEC West there’s little time to waste.
The Tigers are also looking to replace defensive tackle Nick Fairley and several other starters (Auburn lost a total of 18 starters including eight on both offense and defense). They’re nevertheless likely to be ranked somewhere in the preseason top 20 based on their depth and the talent still on the roster. If Wilson comes aboard, however, expectations will shoot way up with an experienced, proven signal caller set to run the offense.
The problem with that scenario is obviously the short amount of time that Wilson would have to grasp the playbook and become familiar with the offense and his teammates. Newton came in last spring and put forth a Heisman Trophy-winning performance, but Wilson would have only the summer and fall to prepare himself for the rigors of the SEC.
Former Auburn quarterback Chris Todd, who played for the Tigers under offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, was optimistic that a quarterback can learn the system over the summer and in the fall. “It’s possible to have success in the offense starting out in the summer,” Todd said according to Schad. “It’s not an easy feat to accomplish. But it can be done. You would really have to take the time to learn all the route combinations and protections. But what Malzahn does is really simplifies it for a quarterback by going over things so many times the week of the game you feel prepared enough to go as fast as you need.”
There’s also the problem of Wilson’s baseball responsibilities. He’s currently taking the field for the Class A Asheville Tourists. His regular season ends September 5. Auburn opens the year against Utah State on September 3. An agreement with the Rockies is obviously key to making this all happen and getting Wilson in town early enough to learn the offense.
If Auburn believes Wilson is capable of learning its offense in enough time to succeed this season, it makes perfect sense to bring him in for the year as the younger quarterbacks continue to develop. The Tigers shouldn’t make a habit out of bringing in one-and-done quarterbacks, but in this instance it could give the Tigers their best chance to win and be competitive once again.