RALEIGH — Every time he’s asked about the quarterback competition, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren makes a point to mention he has five choices.
Doeren always includes freshmen Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor when he talks about a potential starter for the Aug. 31 opener against Louisiana Tech.
In addition to veterans Brandon Mitchell, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker, both freshmen will have a chance to win the job this month, Doeren said.
"That’s all you can ask for," Shirreffs said.
While the odds are against Shirreffs or Taylor, a walk-on from New Bern, winning the job, there is a reason Doeren includes the two in the conversation.
"Both the freshmen run well," Doeren said. "They’re both athletic."
Doeren prefers quarterbacks who have the ability to run. At Northern Illinois last season, Jordan Lynch ran for 1,815 yards and 19 touchdowns. In 2011, quarterback Chandler Harnish ran for 1,379 yards and 11 touchdowns. Both years, the quarterbacks led the team in rushing.
Doeren described Lynch as a "tailback that could throw." Lynch also threw for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns and led the Huskies to a 12-2 record and the Orange Bowl.
Both Shirreffs and Taylor can find inspiration in Lynch and the success he had under Doeren. Shirreffs, who is 6-3 and 218 pounds, ran for 1,372 yards last season and led Jefferson (Ga.) High to a state championship.
Like Lynch, Shirreffs was rated by Rivals.com as a two-star prospect. NIU was the only major Division I program that wanted Lynch to play quarterback.
Shirreffs was set to go to Yale before N.C. State offered after Doeren was hired in December.
Doeren said physically there are similarities between Shirreffs and Lynch, who is 6-foot and 216 pounds.
"Shirreffs is built more like Jordan, he’s a really strong kid," Doeren said.
Shirreffs and Lynch had an embarrassment of college options compared to Taylor. Despite leading New Bern to a 15-0 record and running for 3,309 yards in his prep career and passing for almost 8,000, Rivals didn’t even rate Taylor.
At 5-11 and 185 pounds, Taylor had a "bunch of Division II" offers but no options other Division I options other than to walk on at N.C. State.
Taylor’s size worked against him in the recruiting process, but it didn’t stop his production level at New Bern. He accounted for 130 career touchdowns and led the Bears to 42 wins.
"Josh is smaller but he’s really quick, he can really run," Doeren said.
Taylor preferred the challenge of earning a spot in the ACC to starting right away at a lower level.
"I knew I was going to have to work, but I love the coaching staff and I think it’s a good situation for me," Taylor said.
Even though they are competing against each other, and the other three quarterbacks, Shirreffs said all five players have helped each other get better.
Despite the camaraderie, the freshmen still understand it’s a competition and there’s likely only going to be one winner.
"The best one will get the job," Taylor said.