After Jacoby Brissett took his NC State squad to back-to-back bowl games – and was drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots – Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren has a decision to make at quarterback. Does he go with Jalan McClendon, a sophomore who attempted just 14 passes last season, or does he go with Ryan Finley, who transferred from Boise State to NC State to reunite with offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz?
“It’s obviously an important position on your football team, and I don’t think you should rush anything as important as that,” Doeren said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “If it was easy to pick, we would pick, but we’ve got a couple guys – Jalan McClendon and Ryan Finley – who are currently competing and doing a good job. Both of them are doing what we’re asking them to do. We’ve just got to get them in enough situations that simulate games where you can kind of see who’s most ready. Both of them are good enough to play for us and win games, so that’s a positive. It’s just who’s going to take the first snap. We haven’t even had a full scrimmage yet, so we’re very premature on selecting who that is.”
Finley, a graduate transfer, has two more seasons of eligibility remaining – and potentially three, as he missed all but three games last season with a broken ankle.
“Obviously he’s got the most experience on the offensive side,” Doeren said. “I think there’s comfort there for him, but Jalan’s got a tremendous arm, he’s put the time in here, he’s a great leader and he’s competing his butt off. He looks like he knows what he’s doing. We’ve got to get him into these two-minute drives and these continual move-the-ball-type periods you put them in – whether you’re backed up or in the red zone or after a turnover – and see how they handle different situations on the field. Giving them both enough of that, we can see who the right guy is to pick.”
NC State has several talented returning skill-position players, including running back Matt Dayes, who last year rushed 134 times for 865 yards – 6.5 yards per carry – and 12 touchdowns.
“I think everybody will tell you that’s a head coach that your quarterback can put you in a lot of bad positions if he tries to do too much,” Doeren said. “As a coach, it’s your job to have plays that feature your players and make sure your quarterback understand his progressions to get those guys the football. There are going to be times, though, where he’s got to make really, really key throws at key moments – or avoid a bad throw – to get to the next down. Those decisions are the ones that you work on over and over in practice. As long as we can stay healthy, we have some good players at tight end and running back. We’ve had a few injuries unfortunately at receiver, but the guys who we have there are making plays at practice.”
Doeren is entering his fourth season at NC State. He went 3-9 during a rebuilding 2013 season but is 15-11 over the last two years. The Wolfpack open the season against William & Mary on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET.