NC State will give its fans a glimpse of what the 2022 season may hold when the Wolfpack takes the field at Carter-Finley Stadium for its Spring Game on Saturday, April 9th.
The Wolfpack, coming off of a 9-3 season in which it finished second in the Atlantic Division, is a trendy pick to win the division and compete for the program’s first conference title since 1979.
Here are three things to look for from the Pack offensively at the 2022 Spring Game.
- Quarterback depth: When Devin Leary missed time under center in the 2020 season, NC State was fortunate to get slightly beyond serviceable play from Bailey Hockman. Coming off of a 4-8 campaign, Hockman guided the Wolfpack to an 8-4 mark, including an appearance in the Gator Bowl.
Leary shined last season as the Pack seemed poised to win 10 games for only the second time in school history before a late cancellation of the Holiday Bowl denied the 9-3 squad. The signal-caller from Gloucester Township, New Jersey finished 2021 with 3,433 passing yards and 35 touchdowns tossed while throwing only five interceptions.
But what happens should Leary go down for an extended time again?
Ben Finley, the younger brother of former NC State quarterback Ryan Finley, would appear to have the inside track to the backup spot. Finley is entering his fourth season in the program despite technically being only a redshirt-freshman. He has appeared in five games in his career and has connected on 18-of-28 pass attempts for 171 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
What Dave Doeren is saying: “[It is a ] night and day difference from last spring with [Finley]. I think he’s got a really quick release. He’s very mobile. The process has slowed down for him mentally. He was almost self-defeating last year. He would have a bad play and it would carry with him. He’s learned how to go to the next play and just move on. He’s very clued into the consistency that he needs to have for the 10 people around him while playing that position. I’m excited about his future.”
- Running back: NC State lost a total of almost 1,400 rushing yards from last season’s team when Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. elected to pursue professional careers in 2022.
Jordan Houston has been waiting patiently in the wings for his chance to shine and the 2022 season could be it. A speedy back with good shiftiness and solid hands, Houston has been at NC State for three seasons but his rush attempts have declined each year since posting 526 rushing yards on 101 carries as a freshman in 2019.
Delbert Mimms and Demie Sumo-Karngbaye along with four-star newcomer Michael Allen from Greenville, North Carolina will also give Doeren some options. Mimms and Sumo-Karngbaye both appeared briefly in 2021.
What Dave Doeren is saying: “Jordan Houston looks like a veteran, he’s taken a lot of reps here in practice the last two seasons, he knows our offense, he’s playing fast, he’s very confident. He’s an explosive player with the ball. I think Delbert Mims has improved as a runner and a ball catcher. He’s always been a really competitive tough guy, he’s in good shape. And Demie Sumo is a guy that could come on the scene for us and be an explosive player in our backfield, a big-play guy. He does a lot of things well, very consistent for a younger player. Michael Allen, it’s great having him here early. He’s learning, he’s getting more comfortable with the offense.”
- Left tackle: Ickey Ekwonu will go down as one of the better offensive linemen in NC State history. That’s no small feat considering some of the centers, guards, and tackles that have passed through Raleigh.
After that, much of what will happen in 2022 is still unclear.
Bryson Speas would seem a likely choice based on experience. As a graduate student, Speas is about to begin his sixth season in the program and has started at right tackle extensively over the past two campaigns, including each game in 2021.
Anthony Belton and Tim McKay are both redshirt-sophomores that are in the mix.
Belton transferred to NC State from Georgia Military Academy in 2021 and participated in spring drills before redshirting the season. He has three years of eligibility remaining.
McKay featured in each of Wolfpack’s 12 games in 2021 after redshirting in 2019 and missing much of the 2020 campaign following a season-ending injury at Pittsburgh.
In a bid to keep Speas on the right side and provide depth on the offensive line, do not rule out NC State bringing in someone over the summer.
What Dave Doeren is saying: “There’s options [at left tackle]. Between Bryson Speas, Anthony Belton, and Tim McKay, those three guys are probably, as far as the returners, most likely. Obviously, we’re still recruiting as well. We’ll see where that goes. I think if we were going to roll the football out there today it would be one of those three.
“We’re hearing the first round [on Ekwonu], a top-5 pick most common. Whether it’s first overall, we know the Jaguars really like him, we know the Jets really like him, the Giants really like him. These teams seem to be the most involved in talking about him with us.
“Bradley Chubb going sixth [pick overall] was a great moment for our program. If Ickey can go higher than that, that would be incredible.
“They’re the ones who did the work. We just set up the program for them, and they took the prescription to heart and played really well, and did all the things they needed to develop their bodies and minds. We talk about how we do things, and it just proves the point more than anything. It gives great credibility on a national stage and continues to showcase what we can do to develop players.”
You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the top righthand corner of the page. Also be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:
Twitter -- Rob McLamb (@RobMcLamb)