If anyone knows the value of experience at the quarterback position, it’s NC State’s Ryan Finley.
Finley returns as the Wolfpack’s starter, giving the Pack a leg up on teams breaking in new quarterbacks, including recent ACC Championship Game participants Clemson, UNC and Virginia Tech.
Finley started every game for the Pack last season, after arriving as a graduate transfer from Boise State in May. The late arrival meant that Finley missed spring practice, giving him extremely limited time to get to know his teammates.
Despite the late start, Finley won the starting job and performed well, completing 60 percent of his passes, breaking the 3,000 yard mark and throwing 18 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
“I can adapt to whatever environment I’m in,” Finley explained.
Still, it’s much easier to be able to skip the adaptation step.
“It’s honestly been great to be here for a full spring and fall,” he said. “It’s great to get to know the guys. Our team is closer than ever, and our chemistry as a team is going to correlate to our success on the field.”
Finley downplays his own role in the chemistry, crediting his teammates for the team’s tightness. “Guys from different position groups are bonding and hanging out with other guys,” he said. “I’m really excited about the bond we’ve made as a team.”
Building a rapport with the team was just one of the areas of focus for Finley during the offseason.
“I think Ryan worked really hard this summer on a couple of things, and we’re seeing it now, in camp,” coach Dave Doeren said.
“Number one was his relationship with his teammates. Showing up last year, he didn’t really have a chance to have one. Now, after 12 months, you can tell he has a totally different vibe with the guys. They respect him and like him. He jokes around with them on both sides of the ball as well as the coaching staff.”
Finley isn’t the most outwardly expressive person, but Doeren says that the quarterback has a “dry sense of humor.”
“He’s a funny guy,” Doeren adds.
“I think it’s important to be yourself,” Finley said. “I think when you’re around family—and we consider ourselves family—it’s important to be yourself.”
There were plenty of other areas of improvement for Finley during the offseason months. He bulked up, adding more than 20 pounds of muscle to help improve his durability.
“He was under 190 when he got here,” Doeren said. “Now he’s over 210, and he’s carrying it well.”
The final area of improvement is one that may be a bit surprising. Last season, Finley had 18 completions of 30 yards or more, including bombs of 80, 79, 70 and 68 yards.
Finley, however, tends to focus on the long balls that weren’t caught.
“His deep ball accuracy is something he was hard on himself about last year,” Doeren said. “He’s been really good in camp.”
“That’s definitely one of the things I needed to work on, coming out of the season,” Finley agreed. “We did a good job attacking what we wanted to get better at throughout the summer.”
“That’s what summer is for,” Finley added.
That, and getting to know the guys who were all but strangers last year.