Doeren: Starting QB Job is Leary's to Lose

Brett Friedlander

NC State's quarterback situation may eventually become a four-man free-for-all by the time spring practice is over next month.

For now, though, coach Dave Doeren said the situation is cut-and-dried.

"Devin is our returning starter right now and the other guys are trying to take the job from him," Doeren said Thursday after the first of his team's 15 spring workouts. "It's going to play out how it plays out, but it's his to lose."

Leary was one of three quarterbacks that started games for the Wolfpack in 2019, earning the job with a promising relief performance in a loss at Boston College on Oct. 19.

Although State lost all five of the games he was under center, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound New Jersey native displayed much more arm strength and better poise in the pocket than either of his two predecessors -- Matthew McKay and Bailey Hockman.

McKay has since transferred to Montana State. Hockman is one of the three remaining quarterbacks challenging Leary for the starting job. Redshirt freshman Ty Evans, early enrolling true freshman Ben Finley, brother of former State star Ryan Finley, and walkon Jamie Shaw are the other contenders.

He finished the season completing only 48.1 percent of his passes for 1,219 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

More important than the numbers, though, Leary said are the lessons he learned from getting his first taste of game action. It's an experience he said will make him a better quarterback as a redshirt sophomore next season.

Among the most imortant lessons, he said, are to "never be satisfied and that you have to improve every single day.

"We just have to get better as a how, being able to prepare myself mentally and physically. I feel like that's a really big step I need to take, just being able to break down film, watch on film and go into the game prepared."

Leary said that there was a "different vibe" surrounding the Wolfpack on Thursday when it took the field for the start of spring practice -- the first official workout since the team completed its 4-8 season nearly three months ago. 

"It was really fun out there seeing everyone fly around and compete," he said. "You could tell everyone was really anxious to get out there."

Attitude isn't the only thing different about State as begins its preparation for the 2019 season. There are five new assistant coaches on Doeren's staff, a group headlined by a new offensive coordinator.

Tim Beck comes to the Wolfpack from Texas with a flashy resume and a reputation for developing successful quarterbacks.

Leary said he's ready to be the next in a line that includes Sam Ehlinger at Texas, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones at Ohio State and Taylor Martinez at Nebraska.

"Anythng he wants me to do, anything he needs me to do, I feel as if I'm capable of doing it as well as any of the quarterbacks on our roster," Leary said. "He does a very good job of adapting to our strengths and our weaknesses."

Although Leary is the incumbent and the starter until either he or someone else proves otherwise, Beck said all the quarterbacks on the roster will be given an equal shot at showing off their talents during spring practice.

The biggest problem is figuring out how to get all of them enough repetitions.

"I haven't figured that one out yet," Beck said. "I've never had so many quarterbacks in one room at one time."

While the depth at the most important is clearly a luxury, Beck said that the goal is to avoid a repeat of last year's revolving door and settle on one quarterback to lead the team from start to finish.

"He has to know he's the guy, first of all," the new OC said. "The team has to know who the guys is and then I think he needs all the reps. 

"He need to be the guy that has such a confidence level about himself when he goes out there so that even if he throws an incompletion or we have an interception, it doesn't phase him because he's not worried about what's going on. What he's going to worry about it how he executes the next play."

Leary is excited about getting the first crack at being that quarterback. 

But he added that while the competition between himself, Hockman, Evans and Finley is going to be fierce, everyone in the group is focused putting last season's disappointment behind them and doing what they can to help State get back on the winning track.

"Our whole quarterback room, we work together," Leary said. "We work together. Every day we watch the same file, so we kind of like moving collectively together, working toward the same goal."

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