Football is just around the corner, folks, can’t you feel it!? We figured what better way to get us all ready than counting down the top storylines heading into this season. Here’s the wrinkle: These are all things we’re either excited or worried about. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the team receiving their highest preseason ranking in program history. We know that dreaded SSUPO wants to rear its ugly head, so while we’re mostly gaga over this team, there will be a few areas that are still question marks. Alec and Essad will break down the top 10 topics their thinking about as kickoff fast approaches.
And with that, let’s continue counting!
#2. Devin Leary reaching peak Devin Leary
Excited or Worried? When excitement turns into the feeling of certainty, although that now sounds like tempting fate, sorry. So let’s just say HIGHLY confident.
Essad: For a few years I got heavy into following the recruiting trail. I enjoyed watching highlight reels for guys that maybe might potentially include NC State in their Tipton Edits(tm) Top 7 schools. I’ve since trailed off because life, but also I just trust that the 3 star that Dave Doeren finds was picked for a reason. But one guy I heavily followed was Devin Leary.
I just felt more confident in him than I had about previous recruits, it was just a feeling with the way he carried himself and his team at the time. It seemed inevitable that he would take the reigns, though he had to patiently wait his turn. In 2019, after redshirting for a year behind Ryan Finley, the coaches worked through Matt McKay and Bailey Hockman before giving Leary his shot. Doeren likes to reward guys who’ve waited their turn, plus he said at the time that the other guys were more ready. Maybe that was true, Devin was still green. But the training wheels came off in the game against BC. It seemed evident from that game on that this was the guy. If you go back and see the Film Room post from that game, there are several moments, specifically #6, where you can see the IT factor begin to shine from Leary. From that moment on, he was THE GUY. He lost that game, but still went 15-33 for 259 yards and 3 TD’s. Not bad for a guy who didn’t start. Actually, the Pack lost every game after that for the rest of the season, but that’s not the point. The point is Leary used that downer of a season to learn how to be a P5 starting QB.
Through the rough 2019 season and the disappointing season ending injury of 2020, he did not lose hope in himself, nor did he lose confidence in the program. Now, he’s entering the season at the absolute apex peak of his powers as a college QB, though I look forward to seeing him take another level once he’s in the pros. One thing that hasn’t been said enough is Leary is now entering his fifth year in the program. He was so calm and collected in that BC game, I can’t wait to see him pick apart teams this year with all this experience under his belt.
Nobody will ever top Philip Rivers as the best NC State QB of all time, but the #2 spot is up for debate this year. If Leary leads the team to 10+ wins and (Lord, please) an ACC title, can he supplant Russell Wilson? That will be a fun debate, what I do know is there is a calmness as a fan knowing you have an elite level QB running the show. That feeling was at its peak with Philip and Russell, and now Leary evokes those same feelings. This year is gonna be fun, and like all the other vets, we’ll enjoy this one last ride and wish him and them well at the next level.
Alec: The law of averages would suggest that State would be unlikely to locate another NFL quarterback after having five in a 20 year stretch that spanned three different coaches. But not only is that what happened, Leary is probably a better college QB than every one since Philip. That’s kind of insane. Actually it’s really insane. Ryan Finley graduated and NC State is finally done with elite quarterbacks. Insert Undertaker GIF here.
Leary has an ability that’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it. The closest I think I can get is calling it some sort of robotic confidence, a machine-like approach that functions totally independent of the circumstances and stakes. That’s not what makes him a great quarterback, it’s merely one factor compiled with a pretty impressive amount of pure talent, but it is the thing that’s stood out to me more lately now that he’s developed into a star.
Seeing this maxed out, with full command of the offense and ability to make more decisions at the line of scrimmage, is incredibly exciting because I have no doubt it will only make him and by extension the offense more effective.