A week into training camp, N.C. State’s quarterback race remains status quo.
Jalan McClendon and Ryan Finley are competing for the job with Jakobi Meyers trying to get healthy.
And while the quarterback race commands attention, the actual starter against William & Mary in the opener on Sept. 1 might not be that important in the grand scheme of N.C. State’s offense.
As strange as that might sound for a school with four quarterbacks in the NFL, it might turn out to be true. Running back Matt Dayes, tight end Jaylen Samuels and receiver Nyheim Hines will drive the bus for the Wolfpack’s offense this season.
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And that’s fine with the quarterbacks.
“We have so many playmakers,” Finley, a graduate transfer from Boise State, said. “It’s just our job to get the ball to them.”
McClendon, in an impressive display of historical college football knowledge, referenced Bo Jackson’s career at Auburn in the 1980s.
“I’m pretty sure he was a leader of his team,” McClendon said of the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner. “The quarterback is expected to be a leader but in my definition, if you’re making plays, then you’re one of the leaders on the team.”
Coach Dave Doeren used the “game manager” tag, which is one that normally makes quarterbacks cringe, to describe what he was looking for in a first-time starter. He noted the talent at the skill positions, notably Dayes who ran for 865 yards in eight games last year, and Samuels, who led the team with 65 catches for 597 yards. Dayes and Samuels combined to score 28 of the offense’s 56 touchdowns last season.
The coach’s advice to his quarterbacks as they enter the second week of competition?
“Don’t screw it up,” Doeren said. “There’s some talented dudes around our quarterback.”
Unlike last year when he had a veteran starter at quarterback, Doeren expects Dayes, Samuels and Hines to do the heavy lifting this season.
“Obviously the focus will be the guys that make the plays when the ball is in their hands and the quarterback needs to understand how to get it to them,” Doeren said.
Which quarterback will take the first snap against William & Mary has yet to be determined. McClendon, a third-year sophomore, was Jacoby Brissett’s backup last year but didn’t take too many meaningful snaps.
Finley started three games for Boise State last season before he was sidelined with a broken ankle. He graduated and transferred to N.C. State in the summer. He followed new offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz from Boise to Raleigh. Finley has two years of eligibility remaining and the potential to petition the NCAA for a sixth year.
Meyers, a redshirt freshman, would be the third man in the quarterback race but has been slowed by a sore right right ankle, an injury he suffered before practice started.
“We have to get him back to where he can run around and jump back into the competition,” Doeren said of Meyers.
Meyers, who is more of a running threat, would offer a change-of-pace from either McClendon or Finley, who are more traditional, bigger pocket passers.
After one week of practice, there has been little separation between McClendon and Finley — at least according to McClendon.
“We’ve performed pretty much the same for pretty much the whole camp,” McClendon said.
Which means the decision on the starter will take a little longer. Doeren said this is an important week of practice because they are installing the 2-minute offense and the first full scrimmage will be Saturday.
When a decision will be made, even Finley and McClendon don’t know.
“Whenever coach decides, that’s when we’ll see,” McClendon said.
But both quarterbacks already know what their role will be in the big picture.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio