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Previewing the Quarterback Position

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Improvement is inevitable. How much will be the question.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 North Carolina at NC State Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Truthfully, we have no idea what college football will look like this year, but we’re going to write about it here as if it is going to happen. So let’s start previewing the 2020 edition of NC State football.

NC State had three quarterbacks start games last season, which is generally not a good thing. After hometown product Matt McKay struggled through his first real competition of the year, the Pack worked its way down its depth chart in search of an answer it would never unearth. By the time State got to freshman Devin Leary, the team had been crushed by injuries and poor, well, everything and was pretty much down for the count.

While Leary was certainly not the answer last year, he has a good chance to be going forward. There is no debate about which quarterback flashed the most potential during their chances under center in 2019, and State will be banking heavily on the now sophomore realizing as much of that potential as possible as quickly as possible, especially given the lack of spring competition as a result of COVID-19.

Leary in 2019 was a mixed bag. Depending on how you want to look at it, you can kind of see what you want to see. There are pretty damn good throws like this.

And this

But then there’s this.

That contrast is not abnormal for a talented but inexperienced quarterback, and it’d be silly to let the ugly stat lines like the ones from UNC and Wake craft your opinion of the QB’s future. Even with the lack of spring practice, a step forward in 2020 feels inevitable for a number of reasons (Although I can’t be sure, I don’t have 2020 vision. Hahahahahow do I still have a job?). How much of a step forward might be the most important question of the entire season.

With a year under his belt now, the game should slow down for the underclassmen quarterback, who did look like a deer in the headlights on more than one occasion last season. The supporting cast will also be much healthier, which should take pressure off of a young quarterback. Even if State has an above average amount of injuries, the team will still be healthier than it was in 2019. Pretty sure Tuffy missed 3 games with a broken fibula in 2019. Does a dog have a fibula? What’s a fibula? Sorry, what were we talking about?

Leary has a big arm and he’s a gamer. Those are facts. You can listen to Orange Bowl champion quarterback Tajh Boyd explain why he likes Leary’s attitude here. Beyond that, his ball placement on throws is one place where you can really see his potential, which is coincidentally an area where his primary competitor, Bailey Hockman, really struggled. Leary had some pretty impressive instances of downfield accuracy in his better performances, particularly the Boston College game.

There is a still a ton of development left to take on, but State has to bank heavily on that happening quickly heading into 2020. The odds are not in the Pack’s favor here given the lack of offseason reps and the early part of the schedule being devoid of tasty munchy cupcakes, but there is no question the talent is there, and the hope is a new QB coach can make a difference quickly. A hopeless endeavor the quarterback position is definitely not.

Leary is also not the only quarterback on the roster. State still returns Bailey Hockman, while Ty Evans enters his first year of eligibility and Ben Finley (you may recognize the last name) joins the program. The latter two have never played a down, and it’s hard to see Hockman giving Leary much of a run, so barring a surprise, it figures to be all Leary in 2020.