Behind Enemy Lines: 5 Questions for Wolfpack Maven's Brett Friedlander

MatthewMcGavic

SI's Jackets Maven: How much trust does NC State have in Devin Leary?

SI's Wolfpack Maven: Barring injury or some other unforeseen circumstance, Leary is the Wolfpack’s quarterback for the rest of this season. He’s the third different quarterback to start for State in 2019 and like Matthew McKay and Bailey Hockman before him, coach Dave Doeren wants to give the redshirt freshman an extended look so he’ll know exactly what he has -- and what he needs to go out and recruit -- heading into the offseason. In Leary’s defense, he didn’t step into the best of situations. In his first start at Wake Forest, his defense dug him an early 21-0 hole. His second start was against defending national champion Clemson. He showed some promise last week against Louisville by going 24 of 44 for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Leary has the strongest arm of State’s three quarterbacks, but he’s struggled at times with his reads and can be pressured into mistakes.

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NC State QB Devin Leary throws a pass against Louisville.Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

SI's Jackets Maven: Who is NC State’s go-to offensive weapon?

SI's Wolfpack Maven: Who is NC State’s go-to offensive weapon? The Wolfpack doesn’t have one per se. Doeren and his staff knew they were going to have their work cut out for them finding replacements for last year’s starting quarterback, center and two 1,000-yard receivers -- all of which are on NFL rosters -- along with the team’s leading rusher. But the process has been further complicated by injuries and the revolving door at quarterback. The closest thing State has to a go-to weapon is freshman running back Zonovan “Bam” Knight, who appears fully recovered from a knee injury that cost him the better part of two games earlier in the season. He has breakaway speed and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. The Wolfpack also likes to use wide receiver Thayer Thomas in a number of different roles, including as a passer who has thrown for two touchdowns to go along with three scoring catches

SI's Jackets Maven: Why hasn’t NC State’s defense forced many turnovers?

SI's Wolfpack Maven: Doeren addressed this subject at his weekly press conference Monday, noting that there were at least two passes right in defenders hands last Saturday that were dropped, but offered no explanation for his team’s lack of takeaways. State hasn’t forced a turnover since now-injured cornerback Chris Ingram’s interception against Ball State all the way back on Sept. 21, seven games ago. So of the problem is youth. There are 10 freshmen listed on this week’s two-deep. Some of the problem is just plain bad luck. And it’s clearly a source of frustration. “Obviously, I’d love to light every candle in the world and do every trick to gain some good luck moving forward here,” Doeren said. “But I don’t really have an answer for why they’re not coming our way.”

SI's Jackets Maven: What has been the biggest factor in NC State’s 4 game losing streak?

SI's Wolfpack Maven: In a word, injuries. It’s a situation similar to the one Tech is going through, with seven players listed as out for the season and 15 in all missing last week’s loss to Louisville with injuries. The casualties include five cornerbacks, three linebackers, two tight ends and both starting offensive tackles. The situation got so bad against Clemson two weeks ago that the Wolfpack went the final 20 plays of the game with two walkons at linebacker. Many of those playing major roles now started the season on the scout team, were scheduled to be redshirted and weren’t ready when they were forced into action. The other major factor leading to the losses has been turnovers. The Wolfpack is minus-10 in turnover margin over the past three games, a ratio that’s not going to lead to many wins regardless of the competition.

SI's Jackets Maven: Is the team still confident that they can make a bowl?

SI's Wolfpack Maven: Confident might not be the right word, since it hasn’t won a game in more than a month and many of its best players are on the sidelines with injuries. But there’s a much more positive feel around the team after Saturday’s performance against Louisville. The Wolfpack played three good quarters against the Cardinals and believe that the schedule is now working in its favor with its two remaining opponents sporting losing records. State needs to beat both Tech on Thursday and rival North Carolina next week to qualify for the postseason for the sixth straight year. While the players -- especially the few seniors that remain -- have their eyes on that prize, Doeren said his team has taken on a “sudden death mentality,” knowing that if it doesn’t win this week, its final game won’t matter.

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Matthew McGavic
Matthew McGavic

Editor

Does your opinion on the Wolfpack change after hearing from Brett?


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