football Edit

Dave Doeren makes another change at quarterback

One of the tasks during the recent bye week, according to NC State football head coach Dave Doeren, was for his players to remember to have fun. That’s going to be especially true as the Pack begins a grueling stretch of five football games in a 28-day span.

At the end of practice Sunday, they had a “Rookie Bowl” scrimmage and let the graduate assistants and quality control coaches call the plays.

After one recent practice, Doeren allowed call outs, where essentially one player challenges another in a form of one-on-one. Doeren recalled that freshman left tackle Ikem Ekwonu wanted a chance to line up at receiver against junior defensive end Jeffrey Gunter, who is sitting out this season after his transfer from Coastal Carolina.

“They're working hard, and we are giving them five minutes at the end [of practice] to really enjoy football,” Doeren said. “I think that's the thing that gets lost sometimes in the pressure cooker of college football for these kids. There’s all this stuff going on in the perimeters, and for them to get back to why they play.

“I think it's really important.”

To further lighten the mood, NC State players Monday were greeted by a haunted house of sorts at the Murphy Center.

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The more important task at hand, however, and the easiest way to have fun again, is to get back to winning football. NC State is 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the ACC. To that end, Doeren has made yet another change at quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Devin Leary, a consensus four-star, Elite 11 quarterback from the 2018 class, will get his chance. He completed 15 of 33 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns without an interception during a 45-24 loss at Boston College last Saturday.

“Devin's ready,” Doeren proclaimed. “I don't think we forced him into the position before he was ready, which was I think for any quarterback is a bad thing. … The things he wasn't doing well, he studied. To his credit, he improved those things. When he got his opportunities, he was poised.

“The last game, he threw three touchdowns and they were all on fourth down, which shows a lot of clutch. He's earned this opportunity. I'm excited for him."

During the bye week, Leary received all the first-string reps in practice. The offensive coaches worked with him to fine tune the attack to what he does well and feels comfortable running.

“You're just trying to make it fit him, so he can play fast,” Doeren added. “We got him a lot of work, and he’s done a nice job. He's excited about the opportunity.”

The Wolfpack's injury situation , Doeren conceded, is unlikely to get better between now and the end of the season, but he is optimistic that a refreshed and rested squad is ready for what lies ahead.

“I feel good about who we have as far as being able to play, and we're not going to gain a bunch of players back unfortunately from the injury list,” the coach admitted. “At least the guys we had in the last game are able to play together again over this past week and this week to get a little continuity there.”

Related link: Press conference transcript

Related link: Video and audio from Monday's PC

Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary will make his first career start.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary will make his first career start. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Other NC State Football Tidbits

One of the biggest challenges facing NC State against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday will be defending the Demon Deacons’ receiving corps.

Redshirt sophomore Sage Surratt is having a breakout year with 53 receptions for 881 yards and nine touchdowns. On the other side of the field, fifth-year senior Scotty Washington has added 32 catches for 523 yards and seven scores. In the slot, converted quarterback and fifth-year senior Kendall Hinton has grabbed 37 passes for 404 yards and a TD.

The group that NC State will be using to cover them includes a pair of newcomers at corner. Redshirt freshman Malik Dunlap (6-3, 216 pounds) had 19 career snaps before making his first career start at Boston College. Sophomore De’Von Graves (6-1, 197 pounds) moved over from safety to corner due to injuries and also started at BC.

“Whether we had our starters or whoever … the three receivers that Wake Forest puts out there are as good as anybody's," Doeren noted. “It's an elite group, and those guys will play hard. I know that. The good thing about De’Von and Malik, they're long. They're strong guys. There's plays where there's body-to-body catches and pushoffs, and they're going to be able to hold their ground.

“In our game with them last year, they made two circus catches to swing the momentum of that game — and they were well-covered. We have to cover and not allow them to catch it with one hand.”

• Wake Forest has beaten NC State in back-to-back years in a pair of heartbreaking and costly defeats for the Pack. Doeren noted that will probably not be a motivating factor Saturday.

“Some of our guys were part of those games, but not many,” Doeren stated. “I don't know how much I can lean on that and have anything come out of it.

“To me, it's going to be how we play, regardless of who we play. That's the thing with our football team right now, not that I don't care who we play. I do, obviously, but I care a lot more about how we play as a football team right now.”

• Doeren chose not to reflect back on the loss at Boston College during his comments Monday, but he did allow for one positive: the play of redshirt freshman receiver Devin Carter.

Carter caught six passes for 140 yards at BC.

“For the last three weeks his confidence has grown and grown,” Doeren said. “He's playing fast. He's having fun. He's become a dependable target and a guy that can run after the catch as you saw on the one long run. To be able to do that is good for us, and it's definitely a boost to that position group.”

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