Most of the preseason talk surrounding NC State football has been dominated by the return of fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving from a serious car accident in 2009 and redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson from baseball.
Irving missed all of the 2009 season, while Wilson skipped spring and off season workouts. The two are back on the football field, and after two days of practice without pads on, head coach Tom O'Brien thinks the duo will need every preseason workout available to them to get back to prior forms.
"I think Russell's a little rusty," O'Brien said. "I don't think there is any question. I don't know how much, I know he's thrown the football some, but he's got work to do that way. Obviously still his athleticism and understanding the offense is there and his decision-making is there, but he's got to get back in the groove. Good thing we have a month before we play. That'll help.
"Nate's learning his position. I think that's the best way to put it. It's new to him. He has all the natural instincts to be good at the position. It's the same statement on Russell. Thank God we got a month to get ready. He's got a lot of time to get in there. I think that when he knows what he's doing, where he's going he flashes the old Nate. That's what we got to continue to do."
O'Brien added that they will not know if Irving has his old explosiveness until they put the pads on and start scrimmaging. The first scrimmage is expected to be Monday.
"We'll see if he can withstand that and the pressure of going everyday," O'Brien noted.
Pushing Wilson at quarterback continues to be redshirt sophomore Mike Glennon.
"Mike looks where he picked up at the end of spring," O'Brien said. "The ball's got a lot of zip on it. It's the same thing. He's putting the ball in the right place and throwing it to the right guy. The decision-making part of it is really important as far as a quarterback is concerned. The physical skills of throwing the ball and getting there, Russell's got some time to get there, but he has to improve."
O'Brien added that Glennon's experience as the No. 1 quarterback during spring has proven invaluable.
"I think he's much more confident and much more decisive in making his reads and delivering the football because he's had all that work in the spring and learned from his mistakes," O'Brien said. "The key is you are going to make mistakes, but at that position you have to learn from those mistakes."
During Tuesday's first practice of preseason camp, several reporters on the sideline noted that the team appeared faster than previous years. O'Brien think it's too early to tell.
"It's one thing to have 40-speed, track speed, it's another thing to have playing speed," O'Brien said. "Until we start playing we are not going to know that. That's game speed, and that has to start expressing itself when we start playing the game."
O'Brien clarified the status of redshirt freshman offensive lineman Denzelle Good, who was not at practice Monday or Tuesday.
"He's still part of the team, and when he's not I'll let you know," he said.