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Redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary looks for an open receiver at the game against the Syracuse Orange on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at Carter-Finley Stadium. Leary threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns throughout the night. The Wolfpack won 41-17.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary was left off the semifinalist list for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback award, but maybe he just didn’t belong on it. Leary has been a saving grace for Wolfpack Nation after the rollercoaster of last season, but I think some of us have blown him out of proportion. 

I do think Leary is a great quarterback, don’t get me wrong, and he’s done amazing things this year, and NC State is thriving in football because of his hard work. While being left off the list for the National Quarterback award hurts Leary a bit, he has been placed on the finalist list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Please note, however, that he is the only one from that list of five and the top 10 up for this award to not also make it into the top 20 semifinalists for the O’Brien award. This leaves us Wolfpack fans confused. What about Devin Leary is off-putting to one of these top awards, but not to another?

When it comes to passing and reading the field, Leary’s right up there with the best of them, as evident by his placement on the Golden Arm Award finalist list. He’s 13th in passing yards with 3186 at this point in the season and 10th in pass completions with 264, averaging almost 290 yards per game. Leary has only had five interceptions this year, and four games with four passing touchdowns, with a total of 31 scores on the season. He’s putting up amazing numbers on his pass game, and he is getting recognized for that. Leary only continues to get better and better further into the season. We’ve seen his continuous improvement, not only between the 2019 season and now, but just throughout this year. 

Where Leary falters, and thus, the reason for his exclusion from the O’Brien award,  is his inability to be an effective mobile quarterback and being consistent in getting the ball further on each pass. A lot of college football success comes down to how versatile your signal-caller can be, and Leary’s stats show a struggle on the rushing side of the ball. You want a good quarterback to not only be able to throw the ball well, but also able to run when needed. Leary has not been able to do that this season. He’s had 46 rushing attempts, but in five games, he’s recorded negative total rushing yards. 

You might look at me like I’m crazy and say, “Well he can’t be blamed for that entirely, what about sacks?” And you’re right, so we take out his worst rushing game against Clemson, he’s still averaging -2.1 yards rushing per game. Leary’s had two rushing touchdowns this year, but just looking at the comparison between him and the other top quarterbacks, he isn’t quite there yet. 

Leary’s had a couple games where he’s under 30 passing attempts. He also falls behind when we look at his average yards per pass attempt, only 7.9. If we just look at that number alone, it sounds fantastic, but when you’ve got 55 quarterbacks ahead of him that are averaging 8 yards and up, Leary definitely has room to improve there too. 

Overall, Leary’s quarterback rating also sets him back behind some of these top quarterbacks. He’s 21st in quarterback rating overall, which while it’s still very good, it isn’t up there with the guys Leary is going up against for these top awards. 

Compared to some of the quarterbacks who made both lists like Sam Hartman from Wake Forest and Kenny Pickett from Pittsburgh, Leary is not putting up the same numbers, passing or rushing. 

Hartman is ranked in the top 10 for passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating this season. On the rushing side, he has 291 rushing yards this season in 89 attempts, with nine rushing attempts ending in a rushing touchdown for Hartman. He has had four games where his longest rush was over 20 yards, his longest being 42 yards. Pickett, much like Hartman, is also top 10 in passing yards, touchdowns and quarterback rating. He’s also done pretty well rushing, with 217 yards in 88 attempts, with four rushing scores. 

When you look back at Leary’s stats compared to these guys, he’s almost there. Once again, if he stays on this progressive trajectory, he’ll be up there on more of these finalist lists. But he just is a little behind some of these other quarterbacks right now. There’s a reason Devin Leary is on the finalist list for the Golden Arm award, and he deserves it. Seeing just how much he has grown from the 2019 season to now, should make NC State fans hopeful we’ll see Leary on this National Quarterback Award semifinalist list in the future. 

Staff Writer

I’m Kat Peters, a staff writer at Technician. I’m in NC State class of 2024, majoring in environmental science. I’ve been at Technician since the fall of 2020.