Tag Archive: North Carolina State Wolfpack


By deciding to attend Wisconsin for his senior season Russell Wilson has given Wisconsin's offense the potential to be one of the best in the country.

Russell Wilson, the former NC State quarterback, has announced (according to ESPN) that he will transfer to Wisconsin this upcoming season. He will be eligible immediately in 2011 and should give Wisconsin a dynamic talent at quarterback that they haven’t had at the position in years. Normally the Badgers have an average quarterback who avoids mistakes and usually hands the ball off to a talented stable of running backs and executes play-action fakes once the running game is working. However, Wilson has the ability to take over the game with his arm, plus he has enough mobility to extend plays and gain yards with his legs. When he suits up in Badger colors in week one of the college football season he will be the most talented quarterback to start a game for the Badgers since I started watching college football when Brooks Bollinger was Wisconsin’s starter, and Wilson puts Bollinger to shame.

Wilson might be a smaller quarterback at only 5’11”, 206 pounds (I would actually be surprised if he wasn’t 5’10”) he definitely has an arm. He doesn’t have elite arm strength, but he has good arm strength and accuracy and when his talented arm is combined with his athletic ability it forms a potent combination that should benefit Wisconsin’s offense immediately as soon as he is comfortable. Take a look at some of the numbers Wilson has put up at NC State, a program that is far from a national power and is not nearly as well stocked with talent as Wisconsin regularly is. As a freshman Wilson was 150/275 (54.5% completion) for 1,955 yards and an incredible 17 touchdowns and only ONE interception. As a freshman starter. As a sophomore he was 224/378 (59.3% completion), 3027 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Then last season as a junior he passed for 3,563 yards while completing 308 out of an incredible 527 pass attempts (58.4% completion). He finished the season with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, a very good year by any standard but remarkably it was his least efficient season of his career.

Now, some might criticize his height, or say that his stats won’t translate to the Big-10, or say that he won’t be comfortable enough at Wisconsin to give them a realistic chance at a second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl. I say that is all BS. Wilson’s freshman season at a wayward NC State program when he threw 17 touchdowns and only 1 interception proves what he can do even without a lot of talent around him. The year before he arrived at NC State the team was 5-7. His freshman year they were 6-7, losing a seventh time to Rutgers in their bowl game at the end of the season (before which they won four consecutive games in order to be bowl eligible). Then last year the turnaround had been completed as the team finished 9-4 and defeated #22 ranked West Virginia 23-7 in their bowl game.

I'm sure Montee Ball and James White will be celebrating now that they won't be facing as many 8 man boxes from opposing defenses.

Wilson has proven that he can step in and make an immediate impact, and I expect him to do just that at Wisconsin in 2011. He has a lot of talent and should give Wisconsin’s passing game a significant boost, one that they haven’t seen in probably a decade and may not see for another decade after this season. One thing you have to consider is the dramatic disparity between NC State’s supporting cast and Wisconsin’s supporting cast. NC State might have better receivers which helped Wilson produce a lot of yardage through the air, but comparing the Wolfpack’s running game to Wisconsin is quite alarming:
NC State- 2008: 442 attempts, 1,601 yards rushing (3.6 yard per carry average), 14 touchdowns
Wisconsin- 2008: 567 attempts, 2,745 yards rushing (4.8 yard per carry average), 31 touchdowns
NC State- 2009: 419 attempts, 1,451 yards rushing (3.5 yard per carry average), 15 touchdowns
Wisconsin- 2009: 581 attempts, 2,650 yards rushing (4.6 yard per carry average), 33 touchdowns
NC State- 2010: 461 attempts, 1,603 yards rushing (3.5 yard per carry average), 17 touchdowns
Wisconsin- 2010: 584 attempts, 3,194 yards rushing (5.5 yard per carry average), 48 touchdowns

Here are the averages for the two teams over the last three years:

NC State: 440.66 attempts, 1551.66 yards rushing (3.52 yard per carry average), 15.33 touchdowns
Wisconsin: 577.33 attempts, 2863 yards rushing (4.96 yard per carry average), 37.3 touchdowns

Just take in those numbers for a bit. Wisconsin, on average, rushes 137 more times a season, produces 1,312 more rushing yards (at a rate of 1.44 yards per carry better than NC State) and averages a whopping 22 more touchdowns per season on the ground. Yet, despite the pressure that was on Wilson to throw the ball even 250 times as a freshman, he still produced incredible numbers through the air. In two seasons as a starter for Wisconsin Scott Tolzien only threw the ball 594 times (328 as a junior, 266 as a senior), while Wilson threw 527 passes last season alone!

My point is, the burden of the offense is going to be on Wisconsin’s running game as it always is. However, instead of a game manager at quarterback (no offense to the last decade of Wisconsin quarterbacks) they will have a dynamic player at the position who can carve up defenses through the air at an alarming rate even without a running game that EVER averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry for an entire season. Not only that, but Wilson is a scrambling quarterback and he himself produced 1,089 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons at NC State. That is an average of 363 yards per season. I won’t even bother subtracting 363 yards from all of the season averages for NC State, but on average without Wilson they would be averaging about 1,200 yards per season and 11 or so touchdowns, a pathetic total. Now, imagine Wisconsin’s rushing numbers with a quarterback who can stretch the field vertically with his arm and his legs.

I don't think anyone stands to benefit more individually from Wilson's presence on offense than senior receiver Nick Toon.

The point of all of this statistical analysis is to show the impact Wilson was able to have without a running game. With a running game as dominant as Wisconsin’s he isn’t going to face a lot of intricate coverages meant to stop the passing game. If defenses try to take away the pass against Wisconsin (I’m not sure anyone has ever considered such a thing) then Wisconsin’s running game is going to demolish you for 60 straight minutes and control the clock with ease. But now if you try to stack the box against the Badgers you will be facing a quarterback with 8,545 career passing yards, 76 career touchdowns (with only 26 interceptions) and 1,089 career rushing yards and 17 more touchdowns. So, fair warning to all the team’s on Wisconsin’s schedule this season: Their offense just got even more dangerous.

Now, while the upside for Wilson’s addition to Wisconsin’s offense is very high, we can’t expect him to step in and throw 40 touchdowns and 4 interceptions this year like this is a NCAA video game on the easiest setting. There are going to be growing pains the first few weeks as Wilson continues to adjust to Wisconsin’s largely ball-control offense versus the wide open passing attack he played in at NC State. However, with four weeks to work out the kinks before they play Nebraska at home I think Wilson and the Badgers will be able to get on the same page. Therefore, even if he has a rough couple of games at the beginning of the season, I expect Wilson to hit his stride and show the world what he could have done at NC State if he had a running game.

Sorry about the length of this post. I started doing some research and it just led to more and more things I wanted to look into and compare and contrast. Wilson has a lot of ability and I can’t wait to watch him carve teams up on play action for the Badgers this year. I look forward to seeing at least two of these games in person this season and as usual, thanks for reading.

–Tom

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I didn’t get to watch the entirety of this game, but I watched almost all of the second half and I have to say I was not very impressed with Cincinnati. That doesn’t sound like a very legitimate statement considering the fact that they were down 30-7 before they scored a couple of “gimme” touchdowns in the 4th quarter, but believe me there is a deeper point to this. I have some issues with Cincinnati’s coaching staff right now. Last year they were very much a passing team and the running game was opened up by the passing attack stretching the field and keeping the defense honest. That worked well in the Big East, but when they faced a talented (and fast) Florida defense that could play man coverage, get pressure with four or five pass rushers, and stop the run… they got beaten pretty easily. Enter Butch Jones, formerly of Central Michigan. He has said that he wants to turn his team into a “hard-nosed” football squad, one that could pick up a critical 4th and 1 for instance.

Well, he has a long way to go before he will accomplish that goal, I can say that much.

Right now all I see is a coaching staff that is calling plays as if they have the desired personnel for all of the schemes they want to run. The reality, unfortunately, is that they don’t. I imagine they will still run a spread, but if they want to be tougher, if they want to run the ball better, and if they want to have a chance to compete against a SEC team that has a fast, strong and tough defense… they need to get bigger along the offensive line (or at least stronger) and they need to build their program more along the lines of Oklahoma. Oklahoma runs a spread, and they have a lot of fast playmakers at running back and wide receiver, but they have a powerful offensive line that can grind out tough yards on the ground when they need it. They are a long way from that now though, and every day I believe more and more that the key to a coaching staff’s effectiveness is their ability to adjust to what the opposing team is trying to do. What I mean by this is simply this: Say you are a run-first team and every team in your division knows that. When teams prepare for you during the week they coach their linebackers to play downhill, attack the line of scrimmage, and play run first and then pass. They creep a safety down into the box so they can consistently have seven or eight men in the box, and they generally dare you to beat them with the pass. I think a good coaching staff, hypothetically, would start the game out doing what they normally do: Run the ball to set up the pass. But while an average coaching staff would continue to run the ball regardless of the success rate, I think a good or a great coaching staff would recognize that they are trying to take away the run and draw up some plays to take advantage of the looks the defense is giving them. For instance, attack the sidelines if there is only one safety over the top, because it will be very hard for him to cover the entire width of the field. Or you could run play-action, keep someone in to pick up the blitz, and attack down the seam or over the top of the linebackers since they would more than likely bite on the play-action and not get deep enough in their drops.

That is just a hypothetical situation obviously, but Cincinnati found themselves in a similar position to the team I just invented out of thin air in the paragraph above. They are a pass first team and they started the game trying to stay true to who they are and mix in some runs to keep the defense honest. There is nothing wrong with that. My problem is that throughout the game NC State was sending five defenders after Zach Collaros consistently and they just let them continue to create pressure. That extra defender was enough to overload Cincinnati’s offensive line, yet no adjustments were made until there was less than 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. I can’t tell you how many times I saw Cincinnati trot out four or five wide receivers in the second half, no doubt to try to throw themselves back into the game. However, NC State continued to bring the “pressure” and Cincinnati seemingly refused to adjust. NC State’s defensive line simply overmatched Cincinnati’s offensive line, and they did a good job of stifling Cincinnati’s running game. I mostly watched the second half of this game only and I noticed that Cincinnati was losing the battle in the trenches after mere minutes of tuning in. Yet, Cincinnati continued to try to run the ball up the middle, to try to prove that they were a “tough, hard-nosed” team and to try to stay true to their game plan. My problem with that is that they really should have adjusted. They should have tried running more two and three wide receiver sets so that they could keep a tight end or a running back in to help pick up a blitzer so they could give Collaros more time to throw. Without any time to throw he was never going to get into a rhythm, and that is why NC State continued to come after him. Notice that once they started dropping back into coverage and playing more of a “prevent” defense Collaros caught fire and led two touchdown drives.

The part of this game that bothered me the most occurred in the 4th quarter. Cincinnati had the ball and it was 3rd and 1. They ran a QB draw with Zach Collaros, you guessed it, right up the middle. NC State was expecting it, their linebackers shot downhill at the snap, the defensive line got upfield and stopped Collaros right at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Now, if I am the coach of Cincinnati I am obviously going to go for it, but by now it should have been entirely obvious to Coach Jones that running up the middle was not working. They averaged 2.4 yards per carry for the game, so it is pretty obvious in hindsight that the running game wasn’t working. But after you get stuffed like that on 3rd and 1 you have to try something different. I thought they should move the pocket and roll Collaros out, or do a play action boot-leg (though that is more risky considering how spotty the protection had been). My point is, they should have gone away from the middle of NC State’s defense since that seemed to be the strength of their unit, and they have a very young secondary that they should have been attacking. I thought they should roll Collaros out, run a deep out with a taller receiver, for instance Armon Binns, run a hitch with a receiver like Marcus Burnett (#85), and then drag D.J. Woods from the opposite side of the field as a safety valve for an easy conversion if neither receiver is open. And if those were all taken away, then Collaros could always take off and try to pick up the first down.

Well, that isn’t what they did. Not at all. Instead, they thought that the answer to their problem was to run a zone-option play where the QB reads the defensive end before deciding whether to hand the ball off to the running back or to keep it. If the defensive end stays at home (meaning they don’t collapse on the run play and they are making sure the quarterback doesn’t keep the ball and break contain) then the quarterback hands the ball off. If the defensive end collapses to go after the running back the quarterback should keep the ball and get as much yardage as he can. I didn’t see what the defensive end did on this play, but Collaros elected to hand the ball off up the middle and shockingly it didn’t work. They got stuffed for no gain AGAIN. I didn’t even care who won this game and I was beside myself with frustration. How could you watch this game, much less coach one of the teams, and run the ball up the middle when you KNOW the opposing defensive line is better than your offensive line. How can you run the ball when you KNOW you haven’t been having success running the ball, especially up the middle. And how can you run the ball when on the PREVIOUS PLAY you ran a draw up the middle and got stuffed. It seems to me at that point some kind of an adjustment is necessary. I don’t care if you run a four wide set, if you put out the jumbo package with three tight ends or if you opt for the pro package with two wide receivers, one running back, fullback and tight end. Just do something different and don’t run the ball up the middle.

That play, to me, symbolizes all that is wrong with coaching today. Too many coaches will hopelessly stick to their guns and their game plan that they had coming in to the week regardless of what the other team does. Obviously you don’t want to abandon what you’re good at, you have to stay true to who you are as a team. However, just like you can’t abandon your game plan entirely, you can’t be so staunch in your beliefs that you don’t adjust to what the other team is doing throughout the course of the game. In my opinion, Cincinnati didn’t do that. Or if they did, then they did an awful job of it. They continued to run the ball up the middle. They continued to let Collaros run for his life without beefing up his pass protection. They continued to throw short and intermediate passes instead of attacking NC State’s very inexperienced secondary (which certainly had something to do with the awful protection Collaros was getting), and somehow they lost the game. What a surprise.

Hopefully Coach Jones and the rest of his staff make better adjustments the rest of the season or I have a feeling it is going to be a very long year for Cincinnati Bearcat fans.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

–Tom