RALEIGH — The most important information to come out of Dave Doeren’s signing day press conference Wednesday had nothing to do with the 19 players the NC State football coach brought in as his Class of 2019.
Rather, it was about a player with only one game of eligibility remaining.
Unlike fellow first-team All-ACC selections — junior wide receiver Kelvin Harmon and senior linebacker Germaine Pratt — quarterback Ryan Finley will play in the Wolfpack’s upcoming Gator Bowl matchup with Texas A&M before getting ready for the NFL draft.
“Ryan’s playing,” Doeren said. “I know him and the seniors that are playing are really excited to have another go at it together. He’s been in the meeting room with us every day, talking about the film, watching and looking at the game plan. He’s all in on it (and I’m) excited for him and all the guys that are playing in it.”
Finley, a projected first round draft pick, has hinted that he would play in the bowl, bucking a growing trend of stars skipping postseason games to avoid injury. Harmon and Pratt are among those players, having already announced that they have already played their final games for State.
A three-year starter who began his career at Boise State, Finley leads the ACC in passing at 151.9 yards per game and is tied with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence for the league lead with 24 touchdowns.
Although Finley had a close relationship with now-former offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz, who left to become the head coach at Appalachian State earlier this week, Doeren said he doesn’t expect any dropoff in his graduate quarterback’s performance.
Run game coordinator Des Kitchings and receivers coach George McDonald have been promoted to become the Wolfpack’s co-offensive coordinators now that Drinkwitz is gone.
“Him and Des and George are communicating — here’s what we think, what do you see, just like he did with Drink,” Doeren said of Finley. “He’s always been an active part of our game plan, because we want to know how it looks through his eyes, too.”
Doeren said that Kitchings and McDonald will share the play calling duties against the Aggies, with Kitchings working from the press box and McDonald on the sideline.
In addition to Finley, Doeren said that his other first-team All-ACC receiver — junior Jakobi Meyers — will also be available for the Gator Bowl while he waits for his draft evaluation paperwork to come back from the NFL.
The Wolfpack (9-3) will be need all the weapons it has at its disposal against a Texas A&M team that took Clemson to the wire and went 8-4 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as coach. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville, Fla.
“We’ve got our hands full,” Doeren said. “A&M is a really good football team. You know how much I respect Jimbo already from his time at Florida State. It’s going to be an awesome game.”