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N.C. State selects redshirt freshman at QB

North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson
North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson

Standing in front of the cameras with microphones and recorders inches from his chin at the edge of N.C. State's practice field, Russell Wilson didn't bat an eye at an awkwardly phrased question.

Wilson was named N.C. State's starting quarterback Friday after besting incumbent starter Daniel Evans and three other players in a long preseason race.

After practice, a reporter told him he didn't look like a quarterback and asked what he does when people suggest he's too small.

"I don't really worry about other people," said Wilson, a 5-foot-11 redshirt freshman. "I know my talents and what I can do."

Wilson becomes just the third QB at State to open the season as either a freshman or redshirt freshman -- and he secured the job over Evans, a senior.

Evans has started 17 games over two years but sat out spring practice after having surgery on his throwing shoulder.

That's when Wilson began to show he could hurt defenses with his running and throwing ability. Coach Tom O'Brien said Friday that Wilson will be pulled at some point in the first half in Thursday's opener at South Carolina to see Evans and the defense.

So Evans still will play. But O'Brien said he doesn't know if Evans will continue rotating into games.

Evans was disappointed but pledged to be ready if needed.

"I love N.C. State football, and I love this team," he said. "I love my teammates, and I love this university. So I'm really going to do anything I can to help this team win."

In the preseason, Evans and freshman Mike Glennon were Wilson's strongest competition in the race for the starting job. But Glennon couldn't overcome his lack of experience and was committed to a redshirt after the third of four preseason scrimmages.

Wilson, who also played second base for N.C. State's baseball team, outdistanced Evans with an excellent final scrimmage Tuesday. Wilson isn't a classic pocket passer like former O'Brien pupil Matt Ryan at Boston College, but he has the run speed to hurt defenses.

He showed it Tuesday.

"I really can't find the words to describe that type of quarterback and athletic ability that he displayed on the field," State defensive end Willie Young said. "But it's like it becomes a second nature to him. He's at home. He's comfortable."

O'Brien said Wilson is the best quarterback for the way N.C. State's offense is structured now but declined to give details about his skills. Any moves to take advantage of Wilson's speed would depart significantly from O'Brien's pro-style offenses of the past, and O'Brien is wary of revealing his game plan to South Carolina.

In Columbia on Friday, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he doesn't know much about Wilson.

"It's interesting that they've chosen him," Spurrier said. "But I guess they chose him because they think he's the best quarterback to help them win."

-- Seth Emerson of The State contributed to this report.

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