As most college football teams, the NC State Wolfpack were finally able to return to the field this spring and used its time wisely as they closed out the 2021 practice season with a 37-17 Red Team over White Team victory.
The Wolfpack were without a number of starters for the spring which allowed NC State to plug in a few key reserves into the starting role building on the number of reps they would normally receive. “I thought it went about how we expected. We got everybody on our roster in there, so that was fun that everybody got a chance to play there said head coach Dave Doeren. “ It was a typical spring game, you want to get everybody in there and get through it pretty clean without any injuries.”
The Red team which was compromised of mostly starters and second string backups led the entire contest and jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead in the first quarter. Predicted starting quarterback Devin Leary who is returning from a season-ending injury during the 2020 campaign shook off a slow start before connecting with receiver Porter Rooks from 58 yards out. Fellow receiver Devin Carte, who looks to have a bigger role in the offense in the fall collected three catches on the next drive finishing with an impressive diving catch from receiver Thayer Thomas for the second score. In the absence of both Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person, Jr, Jordan Houston took charge in the backfield getting the start and scoring from one yard out after a 34 yard gain set up the touchdown.
Backup quarterback Ben Finely would get in on the scoring with a four-yard run after connecting with Christopher Scott for a gain of 35 yards. Leary finished his day with all of his action coming in the first half with a 9 yard fade to Thomas for his second score of the game. Finley’s biggest play of the game would be a 47-yard connection to receiver Max Fisher who returns to the offensive side following a year on defense that set up a four-yard scoring run from on a QB keeper. The second included a running clock which cut the number of plays in half but allowed the defense to add a few key plays to their highlight reel.
Quarterbacks: With Devin Leary returning and part-time starter Bailey Hockman transferring, all eyes were on Leary who was playing in Carter-Finley for the first time since his season-ending injury against Duke in 2020. Leary was able to shake off a rusty start to finish the game 12-23 for 175 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. His mobility looked good on the runs he did take but those were protected with non-tackles on the quarterback. Wolfpack fans should feel confident in the return of Leary. Leary’s backup Finley also looked comfortable with a full spring in the offense.
Depth at running back: With the one-two punch of Knight of Person Jr. missing this spring, Jordan Houston and Delbert Mimms III showed they are more than capable of carrying the load if needed next season. Both ripped off multiple runs of 10 yards plus with Houston scoring before leaving the game with what Dave Doeren called a minor injury.
Wolfpack Are Dangerous On The Outside: Thayer Thomas continued to show his range with catching and throwing for touchdowns along with Devin Carter and Porter Rooks finishing with scoring catches also. Add in super senior Emeka Emezie returning for another year and Leary should have more than enough options to distribute the ball in this open paced offense.
Don’t Forget About The Defense: While the offense shined in the game, the defense was able to break through with a few bright spots with multiple touch sacks (spring game only) by the defensive line along with an impressive strip by linebacker Jordan Poole who got the opportunity with both Drake Thomas and Payton Wilson both missing spring practice. Caden Fordham also took advantage of the opportunity scoring the only defensive touchdown of the game with a 13-yard pick-six in the second half.
Overall, today showed that last year was not a fluke and the Wolfpack should be a contender in the Atlantic division come the fall season. Eyes will definitely be on Raleigh and NC State during the 2021 season.