Every day since our bowl game in December, I have expected the sun to rise in the east, President Trump to tweet, and Jalan McClendon to announce his transfer.
Surely, you remember McClendon? The perfect QB body type (6-5; 221 lbs) . . . the strong arm – the kind of arm that seems to move slowly, almost lazily, through the motion, and yet the ball bolts out of his hand like an ICBM (think Jeff George) . . . the heir apparent to Jacoby Brissett . . . and our next and future star QB.
I will state upfront that I do not know Jalan other than what I have seen in the media, so all of my assumptions may be 100% inaccurate. I only refer to him as Jalan for my writing ease (NOTE: since I am 6-0 and 190 lbs, if I was in his presence, I would address him as Mr. McClendon).
A 3-4-star recruit out of West Mecklenburg (Charlotte NC) with offers from FSU, Miami, UNC, and UVA among others, Jalan was certainly a welcome addition to the Pack family . . . and a recruiting coup given we had just completed a 7-6 season (2012), fired a head coach (O’Brien), and hired a new one (Doeren) by the time he committed in May 2013. Jalan and just about everyone in his life had to project that he would be a three-year starter, beginning with his red-shirt sophomore year after Brissett’s graduation, with a decent shot at an NFL paycheck one day.
Insert Ryan Finley.
I suspect only the wildest of conspiracy theorists would assert that there was a quid pro quo with the hiring of Eli Drinkwitz from Boise State as our offensive coordinator and the later transfer of his former starting QB Finley.
Nevertheless, Jalan goes from being the most experienced QB in Matt Canada’s system (3 years) to being the inexperienced QB when compared to Finley in Drinkwitz’s schemes.
Now that it appears Finley is entrenched as the starting QB – and it clearly had to be apparent at least halfway through last season – why has Jalan stuck around?
1) Jalan loves NC State University, his coaches, and his teammates (doesn’t everyone?)
2) Doeren promised a level competition come fall camp with a fair opportunity to win the job
3) QBs get hurt; Ryan is slighter in frame than Jalan (note: Finley has added 15 lbs since last season). Although I’m sure Jalan wouldn’t want Finley hurt except in his darkest of dreams, the possibility lurks behind every blind-side sack
4) Situational opportunities may lead to a larger role [remember his effectiveness in running the ball in the Notre Dame Hurricane Bowl, or his 3-TD performance against ODU (2 rushing; 1 passing)]. Sometimes coaches substitute a QB for certain situations, then decide to ride out the hot hand if successful
One thing I can confidently conclude is that Jalan McClendon is a class act. In a culture of instant gratification, and the transfer epidemic of every player who thinks (s)he should be the star immediately, Jalan exhibits maturity beyond his years. Perhaps his family and he understand there is significantly more to life than starting football games: a marketable degree, learning discipline, completing a job that maybe hasn’t turned out as originally planned, enjoying deep relationships that can last a lifetime – just to name a few.
Based on what I have seen so far, I think Doeren has made the right choice about Ryan over Jalan – it remains to be seen if Ryan progresses enough to keep the job, or regresses to the point that Jalan needs another shot under game conditions.
I want the absolute best for Jalan, Ryan, and Wolfpack football. But personally, I am saddened a bit for Jalan. Somehow, I want both of the QBs to start at the same time, and State to win every game because of it. I like to see fine young men like Jalan succeed in every way.
If Jalan doesn’t ever play more than a supporting role this year, and then decides to transfer, it will not change my feelings about him, as he would have given his utmost commitment and effort for four full years. A person of his talent and high character deserves an opportunity to run his own team. Without question, he could start immediately for the vast majority of JUCO, Division II, and NAIA schools, as well as probably 50+ Division I schools.
Thank you, Jalan, for representing the Pack well with character, dignity, and honor. Wolfpack Nation is pulling for you . . . Now let’s go win some football games!