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February 10, 2011When NC State head coach Tom O'Brien walked into the media room on national signing day Feb. 2, everyone assembled there knew that rising fifth-year senior quarterback Russell Wilson was focusing on baseball this spring and summer.
What they may have not known however was that O'Brien is preparing to pass the torch to rising redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon.
"We have to move forward with Glennon," he said. "We've planned for this day, and Michael is ready to do it."
O'Brien spoke of restructuring the offense to fit Glennon's skill set, and how he did not have the option of waiting for Wilson to decide at the end of the summer if he wants to return for football. If O'Brien was not clear enough that afternoon, the next day he pronounced on the radio in an interview with Adam Gold and Joe Ovies on 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh that Glennon was his guy.
"We are going to go ahead and get Michael Glennon ready to play," he said. "He will be the starting quarterback against whomever we open with next year."
For Glennon, he realizes the opportunity is now.
"It's an exciting time for me after waiting so long, coming in and competing for the starting job right away and then having to sit three years," Glennon said. "It's tough, but it's a good learning experience for me. Now I feel like I am ready to go and lead this football team to some victories."
Glennon arrived at NC State as perhaps the most highly touted quarterback to ever sign with the Wolfpack program. Rivals.com rated him as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the 2008 class, and he was a four-star prospect listed as the No. 59 recruit in the country regardless of position.
He seemed to be walking into a good situation at NC State. There was a wide-open quarterback battle heading into the 2008 season. Daniel Evans was the incumbent with high intangibles, but also a physically limited quarterback. Harrison Beck was a strong-armed but inconsistent and interception prone Nebraska transfer. Like Glennon, Beck was a hot-shot recruit, and Beck briefly supplanted Evans as a starter in 2007 before an injury opened to the door for Evans to take the job back. Also back was Justin Burke, a cerebral quarterback who may not have been a great fit for offensive coordinator Dana Bible's offense.
Then there was Wilson, a 5-foot-11 freshman who redshirted in 2007 and was a two-star recruiting coming out of high school with his only other offer being from Duke.
Burke and Beck faded behind the competition early, leaving it as a three-player race between Evans, Glennon and Wilson. Glennon though proved not to be ready, and eventually the job went to Wilson over Evans.
"From then on it was a tough situation for me being behind an All-ACC quarterback, but I think I learned a lot from him about the college football game, and I think in the long run it benefitted me," Glennon said.
Glennon redshirted in 2008 and has been the second-string quarterback each of the last two seasons. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown with two picks in 2009, and last season he was 9-of-13 passing for 78 yards. He also insisted that in those three years he never reached a low point.
"I had respect for what was going on," Glennon said. "I knew that Division I football is not going to work out the way everyone wants it to from the start, but if I kept working hard, everything would pay off and everything would work out for me.
"I don't think my mindset was that I was just a backup quarterback. I was behind a very good quarterback. I always prepared like I was going to be the starter. Week-in and week-out I feel like if I had to go in, then I was ready to go, and I think the coaches felt the same way."
Glennon said that he did not talk much with Wilson this offseason about what Wilson planned to do, noting that was "his own privacy that I respected." He also stated that he never wondered what he would do if Wilson had decided to focus on football in 2011.
"I always wanted to be the starting quarterback here," Glennon said. "That was the goal I had coming in and that's still the goal I have now. There really wasn't anything other than being the starting quarterback at NC State.
"I always wanted to be here at NC State."
Glennon is set to graduate in May with a degree in finance, part of what should be a big year for the Glennon family. They had to watch Glennon's older brother Sean go through quarterback battles at Virginia Tech with Tyrod Taylor, and then had to watch Mike wait his turn behind Wilson.
"They are excited," Glennon said. "They know I've been patient. They've been patient because they want to see me play. They're excited for me."
Watching his brother's experiences in Blacksburg has also proven beneficial for Glennon.
"I saw what he went through so it wasn't a complete culture shock," Glennon stated. "Same time, you don't want to see the same thing happen two times in a row."
O'Brien expressed confidence that Glennon, who has added about 25 to 30 pounds on his listed 6-foot-6 frame (he said that he is actually 6-foot-7), and is now 225 pounds. Glennon has flashed his abilities, especially during the annual spring game the past two years.
In 2009, Glennon completed 25 of 38 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. Last year he was 21-of-38 passing for 423 yards and three scores with two interceptions.
"Michael is really talented," O'Brien said. "We have a pretty good idea what Michael Glennon can do, but we have to reaffirm that."
Glennon is already putting in extra work. He throws with the receivers twice a week, and he is happy with the attendance rates so far among the team in offseason workouts.
"It's kind of I guess you could say an inexperienced bunch," Glennon said of the passing attack. "We know that, and we don't want to be the weak link of the team. We are going to do everything we can to make it the strong link."
After the Champs Sports Bowl win over West Virginia improved the Pack's final 2010 record to 9-4, O'Brien challenged the team to do better in 2011. Departing senior captains Jarvis Williams and Nate Irving said they would accept nothing less than 10 wins. Glennon welcomes setting the bar high.
"Obviously the mindset everyone has is to win every game," he said. "I have confidence in my teammates, and I think they have confidence in me. You put the two together and I think we'll have a pretty successful team."