Devin Leary may have been the best kept secret in the ACC this offseason. The sophomore has delivered in a big way for an NC State team that had to have it, throwing 21 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions to this point in the season. And the truth is, none of this is surprising if you were paying attention last year.
Leary played about three games worth of football last season before a leg injury ended his 2020 campaign. He threw eight touchdowns and won all three games he started. With Leary though, it was always more about the details than the macro-level results, at least if you were keeping a forward-looking perspective. It was more about the confidence, the accuracy, and the general unflappableness he displayed over those games that clued viewers into the secret. There was really something here.
Even before the breakout performance at Pittsburgh, Leary stepped into garbage time against Virginia Tech and just casually made these types of throws.
The stats were good last year but it was more this stuff, this ballsy throw, the pinpoint back shoulder balls against Pittsburgh, standing in the pocket and delivering on 4th and the ball game, the stuff you only saw if you watched every down, that was a preview of who this guy could be. Now in his first season as a full-time starter, Leary has thrown 18 touchdowns and 0 interceptions over his last six games. There aren’t many quarterbacks playing at a higher level anywhere in the country.
Much like the team he plays for, Leary is going to have to work overtime to get any attention, but that couldn’t matter less to a team in the thick of an ACC Championship race, which is exactly where he has led the Wolfpack. State is an underdog in this race, what with the loss it posted at Miami and the Wake Forest game being in Winston-Salem, but this is still a team that controls its own destiny, and a decent chunk of that destiny will be controlled by Leary himself.
Offensively, State is going to depend heavily on the sophomore QB (and the creativity of his OC) to work around a running game that has really struggled as of late. The Pack ran for a total of 115 non-fake punt yards combined over the last two games. That’s terrible. But Leary did enough to win both of them despite that, throwing for 627 yards and scoring seven touchdowns between them.
The Pack has entered the fourth quarter in a one-possession game in three of its four ACC contests. Leary has accounted for six touchdowns and zero turnovers in those fourth quarters/overtimes. There is a pretty real chance State is 1-3 in the ACC without the clutch play of the forever unrattled Leary. He’s been great all year but even greater in the clutch, and it’s been a key ingredient to NC State’s current position relative to the Atlantic Division.
Leary has taken on everything that’s been asked of him, even as that list has continued to grow. Despite almost no fanfare in the offseason, he has balled out this year and been without question one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Without his play, NC State would not be within striking distance in the league. The ACC’s best kept secret is coming out.