Bailey Hockman is ready for his first start at quarterback
NC State football redshirt sophomore quarterback Bailey Hockman has been waiting for the moment that he could call himself a college starter.
The time officially arrived Monday morning when head coach Dave Doeren released the depth chart that revealed Hockman will start Thursday night against Syracuse.
“It’s been a long journey,” Hockman admitted. “My story has been up and down. It’s been a long time coming. I’m ready for it. I’m ready to go.”
Hockman originally made a very early commitment to Georgia when he was quarterbacking McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga. During a prolific high school career in which he threw for 9,013 yards and 94 touchdowns, both eighth-highest in the state's high school football history at the time, he faced a dilemma when Georgia fired head coach Mark Richt following the 2015 season.
So Hockman opened up his recruitment and then made his pledge to Florida State in the spring of his junior year in high school. Yet his head coach there, Jimbo Fisher, would leave FSU for the same position at Texas A&M after Hockman redshirted his freshman season.
The following preseason, Hockman made the difficult decision to leave Tallahassee himself and go to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, where he did not play football last fall.
“It was a difficult part of my life,” Hockman admitted about leaving FSU. “After that, nothing really affects me. If something bad happens, whatever, let’s keep going, keep working.”
That was the mentality Hockman brought to the quarterback position battle at NC State since last spring, and it’s the same approach he hopes to keep now that he is the starter.
“I was excited, just like anybody would be, but in the back of my mind it is just keep getting better every day,” Hockman said. “Same approach — I’m the starter, I’m the backup, I’m third string, I’m playing receiver, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to try to get better every day.”
Hockman’s parents and a few friends from back home will make the trip Thursday to watch his first career start. He noted that he had a few good messages from friends that he appreciated after being elevated to the top of the depth chart.
Don’t expect Hockman to be overly amped up pregame. That simply goes against his personality, which he self-described as “real chill.”
“I don’t get too hyped up, so I kind of have to hype myself up a little bit,” Hockman said.
The environment may help with that. The quarterback has already heard about how Thursday games at Carter-Finley Stadium can be electric, and he likes the alternate uniforms that the Wolfpack will be breaking out for the game.
The task at hand, however, is moving the football against Syracuse, and from the sounds of it, Hockman has already done an extensive amount of homework on his opponent.
“A lot of man [coverage], they play a lot of one-high, get into cover three,” Hockman said. “They are a really good team. Their defensive ends are really fast, very athletic players. Two interior guys are big, strong,”
Hockman completed 21 of 40 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in the loss at Florida State after he relieved starter and redshirt sophomore Matthew McKay during the Pack’s first possession of the second quarter.
He believes that having a full week to run with the first string in practice this week is going to help improve the chemistry with the unit, and he is confident in some of the adjustments that have already been made.
That NC State is coming off a bye week doesn’t hurt, either.
“The time definitely helps, but I’ve been preparing since the day I got here, so it’s the same thing,” he noted.
At his best, Hockman thinks he can be a three-dimensional quarterback: a signal-caller that can throw, run, and keep plays alive with his legs and then throw.
“I think that’s a good thing, but I think you got to be smart about it,” he added. “You got to stay within the system and do what the coaches are telling you to do.”
It is possible that redshirt freshman Devin Leary will also get some action at quarterback Thursday, but Hockman stresses he does not feel any pressure.
“Devin is doing great,” Hockman said. “He keeps working really hard. He’s doing really well. I’m proud of him.”
And it’s also not in Hockman’s nature to back down from a challenge, especially after his long wait to arrive at this moment.
“I’d like to think I’m the toughest guy on the field,” he said. “No hit could take me down, nobody saying anything could take me down. No matter what it is, I am just going to keep going, keep working.”