Wolfpack is 'Hockman's Team' ... For Now

Brett Friedlander

NC State football coach Dave Doeren said that if the Wolfpack's game at Virginia Tech were played on Tuesday, Bailey Hockman would be the team's starting quarterback.

But here's the rub: The game won't be played until Saturday.

And because planned starter Devin Leary is back at practice working off the rust gathered by his 20 days in COVID-19 quarantine during preseason camp, Doeren is hedging his bets on which quarterback will be under center against the Hokies in Blacksburg.

"We're going to get into the week and see how things go," the Wolfpack coach said Monday during his regular weekly meeting with the media. "Devin is taking reps and getting better. 

"I think Devin deserves that opportunity to get better at practice and he will. Like I said, we've got two good quarterbacks and we've got to keep getting them better. They both need to be ready to be our guy. I'm super happy with what Bailey did with his opportunity and I'm looking forward to helping both of them this week to prepare."

Leary has been penciled in as State's starter since this spring, but he was unavailable to play in Saturday's season opener against Wake Forest because of missed practices.

Although he never actually contracted the coronavirus, he was forced into quarantine by contact tracing protocols. That elevated Hockman to No. 1 on the depth chart, a spot he occupied for two games last season.

Hockman, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior who began his college career at Florida State, said he be starting early in the week, giving him time to prepare for his elevated role. 

He rose to the occasion in the game by completing his first 13 passes on the way to a 16 of 23 performance for 191 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score while leading the Wolfpack to a 45-42 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium.

It wasn't a perfect performance. The pick six he threw early in the third quarter helped shift the moment back into Wake's direction after State had taken a lead and threatened to put the game away.

But other that that hiccup, Doeren had high praise for the job his substitute quarterback did.

"I thought Bailey handled the situation well," he said, "completing 70 percent of his passes, getting off to a good start, throwing a lot of catchable balls, took some shots in the pocket and showed some toughness and rushed the football well for us."

Doeren said that Hockman's play was worthy of another start, even though he didn't actually come right out and say that he'd be starting on Saturday.

"Bailey did some good things in the game and he'll continue to be our starter until we see that Devin's in a position to play," Doeren said. "It's his team right now and we're going to continue to support them both and get them both ready to help us win."

In an effort to cut off a brewing quarterback controversy before it gets started, Doeren said that the Wolfpack is going to need both quarterbacks to get through this unprecedented season.

"We're one injury, slash COVID test away from having a different player at every position," he said. "We need our quarterbacks to be elite, whether it's Devin or whether it's Bailey."

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