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The Russell Wilson Tour

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Talented, veteran quarterbacks don't usually hit the free-agent market in college football, but these are strange times, and one of the nation's best could be up for grabs this summer.

Russell Wilson had an outstanding three-year career in Raleigh, completing almost 58 percent of his passes for 8,545 yards and 76 TDs. He also amassed just over 1,000 yards rushing and 17 more scores, making him one of the top dual threats in the business.

The key word in there is "had", as one of NC State's most accomplished players ever was let out of his commitment to the school in late April.

NC State head coach Tom O'Brien was simply tired of waiting on Wilson to make up his mind about his senior season. You see, Wilson, who was last year's runner-up as the ACC Player of the Year (3,563 passing yards, 28 TDs, 435 rushing yards, nine TDs), is currently playing in the Colorado Rockies' minor league system after being selected in the fourth round of last summer's draft.

"Russell and I have had very open conversations about his responsibilities respective to baseball and football," said O'Brien. "While I am certainly respectful of Russell's dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to NC State Football. My staff and I thank him for his contributions as a member of Wolfpack football and to this University and wish him only the best in the future."

Wilson, who has already graduated from NC State, is not subject to the NCAA's transfer rules and as a result can play this fall for almost any team he wants (cannot join another ACC team or any team on NC State's schedule).

Russell Wilson had an outstanding three-year career in Raleigh, completing almost 58 percent of his passes.
Herein lies the rub.

Wilson's aspirations, like most youngsters, were grandiose to say the least. Talented in two sports, I'm sure part of him wanted to play professionally in both baseball and football. While trying to navigate the minor league waters en route to a spot in the majors, Wilson has not completely abandoned football.

"While my immediate plan includes playing professional baseball, I have not closed the door on football. With one more season of college eligibility remaining, I will continue to explore and consider all my options."

There is no shortage of options and there will undoubtedly be several programs willing to jump through this window of opportunity and get themselves an established winner, even if it is for only one season.

Wilson has already expressed interest in heading to the Big Ten to run the offense for Bret Bielema's Wisconsin Badgers. It would certainly make sense from the Badgers' perspective. Wisconsin doesn't have much in terms of quarterback depth heading into this season, but is chock-full of talent just about everywhere else. However, would it be a match made in Heaven? Wilson is a rare talent that can throw the ball all over the field, as well as tuck it in and run. Although it is a pro-style offense there, I'm not really sure Wisconsin would showcase Wilson's talents, where a stable of quality backs will be fighting to earn the lion's share of what is certain to be a ton of carries.

The Wisconsin thing may not happen at all though, as Wilson will probably take a tour of SEC Country first, starting with a date with the defending national champions. Deja Vu perhaps for Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who has yet to comment on the reported visit. One-year wonder Cam Newton parlayed his stint with the Tigers into a national title, Heisman Trophy and top pick in the recent NFL Draft, not a bad blueprint for Wilson to follow. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn certainly aided in getting Newton to the very top of the college football world. Whether he could accomplish similar results with Wilson remains to be seen. Last season's Tigers were veteran-laden, and a special season ensued. This year may find the going a little rougher, and a stop-gap at the quarterback position may actually retard growth of the program.

Tennessee could become a player in this as well. While head coach Derek Dooley is excited about youngster Tyler Bray, getting the talented sophomore more seasoning could be just the thing to make the Vols contenders in the SEC East for years to come.

Ole Miss is no stranger to making a change at quarterback. The Rebels tried their hand at a one-year rental last season, bringing in Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli. It was a failed experiment in Oxford in 2010 and may keep the Rebels from throwing their hat in the ring this time around.

One destination that makes a lot of sense is South Carolina. Steve Spurrier doesn't have a lot in terms of reliable QB depth. Stephen Garcia headlines the group, but the problem there is that the oft-troubled senior is currently suspended indefinitely. Spurrier is high on youngster Connor Shaw, but the small window of opportunity in the SEC may have the Ol' Ball Coach looking to better his odds for 2011. With an absolute stud on the outside in Alshon Jeffery, and another in the backfield in Marcus Lattimore, Wilson's addition could give the Gamecocks one of the most explosive offenses in the country next season and immediately give them the edge in repeating as SEC East Champions.

The bottom line is that the decision is and always has been up to Wilson. Programs aren't likely to remain unclear on the quarterback position for long.

Patience is the key, but the school that shows the most of it, could reap the biggest reward in 2011.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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