September 1, 2010

Russell Wilson ready to lead Pack into opener

Although Russell Wilson spent his summer playing minor league baseball for the Colorado Rockies' farm system, he was mentally ready for football season as soon as he boarded the plane back to Raleigh in August. Physically, it may have taken a little bit longer but he is confident and prepared to begin the season Saturday against Western Carolina.

"I was throwing [the football during the summer] but it's different when you have these big wide receivers, actually running routes, running full speed and that type of thing," he said. "It probably took me about a week [to be ready physically]. I know I'm set and ready to go. It's going to be a great experience for me. I can't wait to get out there on Saturday."

Wilson will no longer enjoy long-time backfield mates Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene lining up behind him but players moving on is just a part of college football. The offensive line is much different than when he first stepped into the starting lineup against South Carolina as a true freshmen. Then, it featured a few converted defensive linemen trying to adjust to their first game on the offensive line against an SEC rival. This season, the wall up front is an intimidating group of mammoth players brought in specifically to protect up front, and promising youngsters populate the two-deep.

"The younger guys are doing a real good job," Wilson said. "They're getting better every day and it's one play at a time, focusing on what your task is and let's do it all together. If all 11 guys do the right thing then I think we'll be successful."

With so many youngsters expected to see the field against Western Carolina, Wilson emphasizes to his younger teammates the importance of focusing on the goal at hand. It was one of the things that helped him when he starting for the first time in 2008.

"Right now, it's [focusing on] Western Carolina," the 2010 team captain said. "Obviously, that's an ultimate goal, to get to the ACC Championship and a National Championship but you can't get there unless you win one game at a time and win this week. That's the most important part."

Wilson's new backfield mate is Dean Haynes, a redshirt freshman who has been practicing at running back for little more than two weeks. Redshirting last season, though, allowed Haynes to run the scout team offense as their signal caller and that is something Wilson is confident will help the youngster in his first college game.

"Being a quarterback helps in general, just understanding the game and understanding what the defense is trying to do," he said. "That always helps. He got to work with Coach [Dana] Bible, too, and I think that has really helped him understand protections and the x's and o's of football. He's a good player."

While Wilson and Haynes are sure to communicate before each and every play; the quarterback is confident in his young back.

"We do that for both of our parts," he said. "I do it for myself, I do it for him. We just treat every play like it's a brand new play and just make sure we're on the same page."

While the Pack has yet to win a season opener under coach Tom O'Brien, Wilson reiterates that he is not focused on the past or the future, Saturday against Western Carolina is his only focus.

"I don't think anything has necessarily gone wrong in particular [during the last three season openers], I just think you play tough games," Wilson said. "It's one of those things you have to forget about and move on, and that's what we're focused on this year. We're not focused on the past three years.

"My goal is just to win the game every Saturday or Thursday night, whenever it is."

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