The start of NC State’s 2022 football season is less than a month away, starting with a tough road test against East Carolina on Sept. 3.
Expectations are at an all-time high for the Wolfpack as they attempt to break a 42-year Atlantic Coast Conference title drought while harboring a Heisman Trophy prospect in quarterback Devin Leary.
But Leary isn’t the only NC State player to find his name on postseason awards watch lists. By the end of 2022, several major winners could emerge from Raleigh.
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Quarterback Devin Leary
Leary was voted ACC Preseason Player of the Year, adding to a long list of accolades.
After setting a new single-season school record with 35 passing touchdowns and giving up just five interceptions in 2021, the redshirt junior has been named to Walter Camp POY’s watch list as well as rosters. Watchdog Maxwell (Most Outstanding Player) and Davey O’Brien Awards (Best QB in the Nation).
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Coach Dave Doeren
Entering his 10th season as a manager, Doeren was named to the Dodd Trophy pre-season watch list after leading the Wolfpack to a 9-3 record in 2021.
Doeren, who has more nine winning seasons than any coach in school history (three), ranks second among the longest-serving coaches in program history and his 64 career wins second only to Earle Edwards (77).
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Defensive tackle Cory Durden
Durden was named to the Lombardi Award Watch List, which recognizes the best offensive or defensive lineman. He was also named to the Outland Trophy watch list, awarded to the best inside lineman.
After transferring from Florida State ahead of the 2021 season, Durden was named an All-ACC defensive lineman in 2022, starting the Wolfpack’s last seven games, totaling 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
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Linebacker Drake Thomas
After a breakout season, Thomas has been highlighted as one of the top linebackers to watch in 2022.
He was named to the All-ACC preseason first team and added to the Bednarik Award watch list (top defensive player), Butkus Award watch list (top LB) and Nagurski Award list (also top defensive player).
Thomas was named to Athlon Sports’ 2022 Preseason Third Team All-American after leading the Wolfpack with 99 tackles, six sacks and three interceptions. He led the ACC with 10.8 per game, becoming the first Wolfpack player to do so since 2000.
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Linebacker Payton Wilson
After a season-ending injury and shoulder surgery, Wilson’s reputation still preceded him in 2022.
Wilson was named to the Bednarik Award watch list, preseason All-ACC first team, and Athlon Sports preseason second team All-American.
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Long Snapper Joe Shimko
Shimko has been named to the Patrick Mannelly Award watch list for the nation’s best long snapper.
Entering his fourth season with the Wolfpack, Shimko was never responsible for a bad shot on 174 punts and 180 field goals and extra points.
That’s 354 perfect shots over three years and 4,050 yards — 15 yards per punt, eight for FGs and XPs — that a football leaving his hands has traveled without error. This summer, Shimko was the only NC State player listed on Phil Steele’s 2022 preseason All-American First Team and will be one of the favorites to win the Patrick Mannelly Award for the nation’s best long snapper.
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Grant Gibson Center
In his fourth season as a starting center for the Wolfpack, Gibson was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List as the top center in the nation.
Gibson was also named to the 2022 All-ACC Preseason First Team and started the final 35 games.
Tight end Chris Toudle
Some prizes are won in the field and some in the field.
Toudle was named to the 2022 Wuerffell Trophy Watch List for his achievements in community service.
Toudle has found a variety of ways to make a difference in the community. He worked as a volunteer at the Partnership Elementary School, helping to mentor several students. One of the teachers said that Toudle’s contribution was lasting and meaningful for these students.
He also hosted a camp for the kids, bringing in college athletes from all over North Carolina and Virginia to not only teach football, but also to host a social event for the surrounding community. He helped organize free food and games and even raised money for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America at the event.
David Thompson is an award-winning USA Today Network reporter covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at [email protected], 828-231-1747 or on Twitter at @daveth89.