N.C. State’s chances of building on its nine-win season improved greatly Saturday when quarterback Ryan Finley decided he’ll play for the Wolfpack next season.
Already fifth in school history in passing yardage (6,577) after just two seasons with the Wolfpack, Finley decided to put off entering the NFL Draft until 2019.
“I’m looking forward to building on the success we had this season,” said Finley in a statement released by N.C. State. “My goal when I came to N.C. State was to win an ACC championship and with so many starters returning on offense next season, I feel that we could achieve that.”
Underclassmen with college eligibility remaining have until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL Draft.
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Finley graduated from Boise State in 2016 and transferred to N.C. State with two seasons of eligibility remaining. The NCAA granted him an additional season, which he’ll use in the 2018 campaign, because his 2015 season was limited to three games by an ankle injury.
Since joining the Wolfpack, he’s led a potent offense that was fourth in the ACC in points per game (32.2) last season.
Finley threw for 3,518 yards in 2017, completing 65.1 percent of his passes. His career completion percentage of 63 percent is second only to Philip Rivers in N.C. State history.
“I’m proud of Ryan for how he’s handled this process,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said in a statement. “I’m excited to watch him finish his career as one of the top quarterbacks in the country and take his place in the long line of great quarterbacks who played for NC State.”
Finley and the Wolfpack finished off a 9-4 season with a 52-31 win over Arizona State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 20. Finley completed 24 of 29 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown that day.
His return for the 2018 season means the Wolfpack passing game will feature Finley plus all three of his starting wide receivers – Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers and Stephen Louis.
Harmon led N.C. State receiving yards (1,017) while catching 69 passes, including four for touchdowns, as a sophomore. Meyers, also a sophomore last season, caught 63 passes for 727 yards with a team-best five touchdown catches in 12 games.
Louis, also playing in 12 games, caught 37 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns.
“I love Raleigh and the special brotherhood that we have on this team,” Finley said. “I will be proud to finish what we’ve started, earn a master’s degree from N.C. State and play another season in front of the greatest fans in the nation.”
The Wolfpack will have to replace versatile Jaylen Samuels, who caught a team-best 76 passes for 597 yards and four touchdowns in a variety of roles.
N.C. State is still awaiting final word if tackle Will Richardson, a second-team all-ACC selection, will return for his senior season. He was part of a Wolfpack offensive line that allowed just four sacks in eight ACC games.
After rushing for 1,112 yards as a junior, running back Nyheim Hines could enter the NFL Draft. But he’s made no indication he’s considering an early jump. After the Sun Bowl game, he said he’s looking forward to competing for N.C. State’s track team as a sprinter again this spring.