The Wolfpacker

July-August 2020 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 35 of 51

36 ■ THE WOLFPACKER QUARTERBACKS A New Beginning BY JUSTIN H. WILLIAMS A ccording to NC State head coach Dave Doeren, quarterback was redshirt sophomore Devin Leary's starting job to lose heading into spring practice. When he opened the final five games of 2019, he became the Wolfpack's first redshirt freshman to start under center since Russell Wilson (2008). After leading the team with 1,219 passing yards and eight touchdown throws a year ago, Leary will be ad- justing to a new system under coordinator Tim Beck, who has led successful offenses at Nebraska, Ohio State and Texas. Behind Leary on the depth chart is redshirt junior Bailey Hockman, who went 1-1 as a starter last year, including the team's lone ACC victory against Syracuse. In seven appear- ances, Hockman completed 54 of 97 attempts (55.7 percent) for 546 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Others that could compete for time this season include red- shirt freshman Ty Evans and freshman Ben Finley, who were both listed as three-star prospects coming out of high school. BY THE NUMBERS 3 Passing plays went for 40 yards or more last year, which was tied for the second-fewest na- tionally among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2019. Two were thrown by Matthew McKay, who has since transferred to Montana State. 5 Wolfpack players threw a pass in 2019: quar- terbacks McKay, Bailey Hockman and Devin Leary, plus trick plays thrown by receivers Thayer Thomas (five) and Keyon Lesane (one). 12.07 Leary's average yards per completion in 2019, the highest among NC State's quarterbacks. If he had enough attempts to qualify, that figure would've ranked 71st nationally. SPOTLIGHT PLAYER REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE DEVIN LEARY Leary finished 2019 as the Wolfpack's starting quarter- back and enters this year in the same role, but he will need to improve for the Pack to have success. Although the 6-2, 212-pounder posted the most inter- ceptions (five) and lowest completion percentage (48.1) among the three quarterbacks that played last year, almost all of his snaps came over the final six games. The Pack played against foes with a combined record of 46-33 (.582 winning percentage) — headlined by College Football Playoff qualifier Clemson — in that span, while the other two mostly faced competi - tion that went 30-45 (.400) and included 3-9 Foot- ball Championship Subdivision program Western Carolina. Leary played just 14 snaps in the first six games. Leary also didn't get enough help from his weapons. There was a 14.9 percent difference between the young passer's completion percentage and the percent of his throws that were deemed on target and catchable (63.0) by Sports Info Solutions. That would've marked the fourth-biggest difference nationally among the 106 Football Bowl Subdivision quarter - backs that attempted at least 200 passes last year, while NCSU finished the season with the second-lowest on-target catch rate (77.0 percent) among Power Five schools in 2019. PROJECTED DEPTH CHART STARTER No. Name Year Ht. Wt. Hometown 13 Devin Leary R-So. 6-2 212 Sicklerville, N.J. RESERVES 15 Ty Evans R-Fr. 6-3 200 Colorado Springs, Colo. 16 Bailey Hockman R-Jr. 6-2 208 Powder Springs, Ga. WAITING IN THE WINGS 10 Ben Finley Fr. 6-3 205 Phoenix ■ PRESEASON ANALYSIS ★★★★ Among country's best; ★★★ Among ACC's best; ★★ Solid or has potential; ★ Too unproven STARTER ★★ Redshirt sophomore Devin Leary, the assumed No. 1 quarterback, returns after five starts and eight appearances as a redshirt freshman in 2019. Although he showed the most potential among the Pack's signal- callers last fall, he also showed his youth on several occasions. In year two, he'll have to learn a new offensive system under Tim Beck with a limited offseason schedule to prepare due to COVID-19. "I was really pleased with his ability to start to grasp what we were doing and seeing him starting to think about the bigger picture," Beck said of Leary. "The more the quarterback can see the of - fense and big picture, the more he can focus on just what he has to do." DEPTH ★★ Bailey Hockman, a former Florida State transfer and the position's lone upperclass- man as a redshirt junior, should win the backup job and has some college experience after playing 205 snaps last year (about half as many as Leary). Redshirt freshman Ty Evans is an intriguing option, considering his high school suc- cess. The two-time state champion from Colorado was named his state's Gatorade and USA Today Player of the Year in 2017, following his junior season. Rookie Ben Finley is unlikely to see much action this season, but is the younger brother of NFL quarterback Ryan Finley and a promising prospect for the future. EXPERIENCE ★★ Leary was under center for all but 14 snaps in the final five contests, which was the meat of the schedule — four of those five foes were the only ones on the NCSU schedule that finished with winning records. Entering last season, the Wolfpack had three quarterbacks competing for the job with no starting experience. Leary and Hockman combined for seven starts and 612 snaps a year ago. OVERALL ★★ The situation at quarterback entering 2020 is better than it was for the Wolfpack at this time last year, but it remains one of the most important question marks that will determine the team's success this fall. The best-case scenario would be a year-two leap in production from Leary, who establishes himself as the unquestioned QB1. The worst-case scenario for the Pack in this position group would be another quarterback carousel situation this fall. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - July-August 2020 Issue