The N.C. State football team earned a huge recruiting boost this week when Aaron McLaughlin announced his commitment.
After losing out on five-star running back Will Shipley earlier this month, the N.C. State football program received a big-time recruiting victory when four-star quarterback Aaron McLaughlin announced his commitment to the Wolfpack. McLaughlin, out of Denmark High School in Georgia, was the 10th-ranked pocket passer in the 2021 ESPN 300, and ranks 53rd overall. The quarterback also had offers from 12 SEC schools, among others, including the likes of Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia. McLaughlin announced his commitment via Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
McLaughlin will come into Raleigh as one of the Wolfpack’s highest-rated prospects ever.
Going all the way back to 2006, the only quarterback with a higher class ranking than McLaughlin was Mike Glennon back in 2008. Over that span no player, regardless of position, has earned an overall scouting grade higher than McLaughlin’s. The only player who ranked higher in their class on the Wolfpack’s current roster is defensive lineman Savion Jackson. As a junior this past season, the 6’5,” 223-pound signal-caller completed 61% of his passes for 2,018 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also added 284 yards and nine scores on the ground.
For more than a year now McLaughlin had been one of the most sought after quarterbacks in the nation, and had previously committed to play at Auburn. According to 247 Sports though, he re-opened his recruitment last fall, which lead to the Wolfpack making him its number-one priority. Per the same source, McLaughlin’s relationship with new offensive coordinator Tim Beck was a huge reason for his coming to State. The article also cites that prior to committing, McLaughlin said that he was “probably in contact more with him [Dave Doeren] than any other head coach.” The fact that Doeren was so involved with his newest quarterback’s recruitment is especially important after losing out on the Shipley sweepstakes a few weeks back.
The Wolfpack had a revolving door at quarterback in 2019, and the results weren’t pretty. McLaughlin should be able to help.
McLaughlin will join a jumbled up quarterback room next fall that includes incumbent Devin Leary, as well as 2020 recruit Ben Finley, along with former four-star and Florida State transfer Bailey Hockman. The Wolfpack struggled mightily at the position this past season, with Matt McKay starting the season (he has since transferred), then Hockman took over for a few games before Leary started the final six games of the year. None of the three passed for more than eight touchdowns, and Leary, who played the best of the bunch completed less than 49% and averaged a horribly low 5.8 yards per attempt.
With all that being said, it’s clear that N.C. State struggled to find their Ryan Finley replacement in 2019. The hope for the upcoming season though is that Leary, who was a four-star prospect back in 2018, will see significant development in his first full year as a starter. While he certainly had his share of freshman moments, it’s worth noting that he also showed plenty of arm talent. He’s going to have to improve his decision-making and accuracy this season, and hopefully with a full offseason of preparation as the starter those issues will improve. If Leary doesn’t take a big leap forward in 2020, there could very well be a quarterback battle when McLaughlin arrives in 2021.
Regardless of what happens this season, the long-term plan is for McLaughlin to hopefully bring the Wolfpack back into contention in the ACC. They won just one game in the conference this past season, and have lost significant ground to in-state rival UNC. McLaughlin’s commitment marks the first four-star the Pack has landed in the 2021 class, and could potentially make for an exciting duo along with 2020 four-star commit Porter Rooks. No matter how you look at it, the addition of McLaughlin is huge not only for N.C. State, but also for Dave Doeren as well. If their fortunes are to change any time soon, it could very well come at the hands of their new QB.