Leary 'Super Thrilled' to be State's starting QB

Brett Friedlander

Devin Leary figured he would be NC State's next starting quarterback after his standout performance in relief of Bailey Hockman two weeks ago at Boston College.

That didn't make the moment any less rewarding when he was given the news by coach Dave Doeren during the Wolfpack's open week. 

The redshirt freshman will become State's third starting quarterback this season when he leads the team against No. 20 Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on Saturday.

"I was really excited," he said Tuesday after practice. "It's an honor just to be the starting quarterback for this team. I was just super thrilled and ready to get to work immediately."

Leary's anxious to get started probably stems from the wait he had to endure before being elevated to the starting job.

He started the season No. 3 on State's depth chart, but he bided his time and said he never gave the thought of giving up or transferring to another school. 

He continued to work as Matthew McKay was replaced by Hockman after five games. Then after seeing his first action in cameo roles against Florida State and Syracuse, the 6-foot-2, 212-pound New Jersey native finally got his shot early in the second quarter at BC.

Although he didn't lead the Wolfpack from behind for a victory, Leary's patience paid off in the form of a 15 of 33 for 259 yards and three touchdowns that provided some badly needed promise for the final five games of the regular season.

It was an opportunity he never doubted he'd eventually get. Not that he spent much time worrying about.

"I wasn't really concerned," he said. "I was just focused on myself, being able to work harder for this team no matter where they put me on the depth chart."

Doeren said on his radio show last week that Leary's arm strengh and physical skills were never in question, but that his "mental game" still needed work when the season began.

Asked what that meant, Leary said it meant learning "how to break down film more and understand what we're doing offensively ... being able to understand things and see it happen before it happens when I catch the snap."

The pace of Leary's development sped up considerably last week as he used the time off without a game to work on his timing and build chemistry with his receiving corps.

"Being able to get reps with the first team helped a ton," he said. "All of my teammates have helped me tremendously and just being able to adjust feels really good right now."

Though his workload has changed, Leary said that his prepration hasn't changed now that he's the starter.

"Something that I always like to take is just win the day," he said. "One day at a time. As long as we continue to win the day, we’re always going to progress. Like I said, competition is everything. So, going hard every single day, managing everything like it’s a game is going to make us better.

"Whatever I can do to help this team, I just want to do my job. Whether it’s with my arm or my legs, I’m going to do everything that I can."

Graduate slot receiver Tabari Hines said he's been impressed with Leary, especially with an arm strength that sets him apart from State's first two starting quarterbacks.

"All our quarterbacks are good, but Devin has a bigger arm than a lot of guys," Hines said. "I think it will be a great opportunity to see him go out there. It's going to be his first start, so he's going to be fresh wanting to see what he can do. He's going to try to make plays."