Kyle Parker and Russell Wilson meet Saturday on the football field but have really only faced each other once.
Last March, Wilson pitched in relief against the Clemson baseball team and walked Parker. It might be the only time the two face each other in a one-on-one situation. Both dual-sport athletes will watch each other perform from the sidelines at Memorial Stadium this weekend, and the rivals could soon be teammates after each was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in June.
Parker, a first-round pick, and Wilson, a fourth-round pick, are undersized by NFL standards for quarterbacks and are expected to pursue professional baseball careers. Parker and Wilson -- both outfielders -- will likely begin their professional careers at Single-A Asheville (N.C.) next year. Parker said they have exchanged text messages.
"I'm no genius, but I don't think it has happened before," said Parker of he and Wilson's situation.
Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret wrote that the Parker-Wilson meeting might be the most celebrated individual matchup at Clemson since 1984 when Virginia Tech defensive end Bruce Smith played Clemson and William Perry.
Parker has baseball bragging rights over Wilson with his 20 home run campaign in the spring, College World Series trip, and his signing bonus: Parker signed for $1.4 million, Wilson signed for $200,000.
But Wilson holds the football bragging rights this fall.
Wilson leads the ACC's No. 1 offense, leading the ACC in passing (287 yards per game) and total offense (321 ypg). The junior has also led N.C. State to a 3-1 record in the ACC and a key victory over Florida State last week.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Wilson presents a different challenge than Auburn's Cam Newton, but the challenge is similar in degree of difficulty.
N.C. State likes to spread the field with multiple receivers, looking for one-on-one matchups, and Wilson is accurate in the pocket or on the run.
"When rushing three, he doesn't have any place to throw it but he can pull it down and run," Steele said. "Rush four, you better balance rush lanes and keep him in the well so he can't slip up inside or over the top, which is a hard task. Rush five or six and you better get there, because now you are limiting coverage options, now you got one-on-one matchups so you better get there.
"I don't think anyone wants to play corner in this league when it's one-on-one coverage and pass rush doesn't get there."
N.C. State receivers Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams have size and speed and will test a Clemson secondary that surrendered big plays in the passing game against Auburn, Miami and Boston College.
"We are playing much better defense," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We are getting after the quarterback well, we've had some scores on defense, but it's a big challenge."
Despite the quarterback skills of Wilson and Parker, both stand around 6 feet tall, and their size makes baseball their likely futures.
Parker gave up $800,000 in negotiations with the Rockies in part to continue to explore his football option, but has indicated baseball is his likely path. Parker said it's unlikely he will go to the NFL combine in February and plans on reporting to spring training in March.
"It's not like scouts and agents are saying 'You are going to be at the combine, right?" Parker said. "It's not a decision I've even thought about."
Parker said returning to Clemson was in part to see "what my future is going to be … feeling it and seeing. … I don't think I'm at that decision right now. … I haven't sat down and thought about my future, obviously I have some solid options. There are a lot of conversations to be had. But obviously I'm valued as a first-round pick."
Swinney said leading rusher Andre Ellington will meet with a foot specialist today in Greenville and the staff will then have a better of idea when Ellington can return. Ellington is already thought to be out at least two weeks with a ligament issue in his foot. If the tear is significant, it's conceivable the Berkeley High product will be out for the rest of the regular season.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
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