Riley Leonard enters transfer portal: Notre Dame expects to target Duke QB after injury-shortened 2023 season



Duke star Riley Leonard has entered the transfer portal after emerging as one of college football’s top quarterbacks over the past two seasons, according to multiple reports. Though hobbled by injury in 2023, Leonard should be a hot commodity in the portal after helping engineer an impressive turnaround with the Blue Devils. It’s no surprise, then, that Notre Dame is among the schools expected to target Leonard as an impact transfer. Of note: Leonard is entering the portal with a “do not contact” tag, according to 247Sports’ Chris Hummer, indicating he has an idea of where he will go. 

Leonard’s entry into the portal comes as Duke grapples with Mike Elko’s departure for Texas A&M. A successor has not been named, and the Blue Devils are currently under the direction of interim coach Trooper Taylor as they prepare for a bowl appearance with a 7-5 record.

Though following Elko to Texas A&M could also be an option for Leonard, there are several other Power Five programs in need of a quarterback. The Fighting Irish are enjoying (maybe a little too much, if you ask Dave Clawson) a successful year with Sam Hartman, who transferred in after a prolific career at Wake Forest. A leader of Leonard’s caliber is desirable for a lot of high-level programs. 

Leonard threw for 2,967 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for 699 yards and 13 touchdowns during his lone full season as a college starter in 2022. A driving force behind this year’s 5-1 start, Leonard’s injuries against Notre Dame and Florida State eventually cost him the season.

Impact on Duke

Leonard’s emergence helped the Blue Devils go from 3-9 in 2021 to 9-4 in 2022 in Elko’s first season. His departure is another blow to the program that just took a gut punch by losing a promising coach. But his extended, injury-related absence this season allowed the Blue Devils to get a look at a couple of other quarterback options. 

The one who rose to the top was Grayson Loftis, who took over the job in November and helped the Blue Devils win two of their final four games. The former three-star prospect threw for 823 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions in seven appearances while completing 53.7% of his passes. In a win over Pittsburgh to close the regular season, he completed 20 of 37 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Of course, more transfers are a given for Duke amid the coaching transition, and a new coaching staff could have its own ideas for what to do with the position.

Quarterback transfers mounting

With the regular season concluded, the number of quality quarterbacks flocking to the portal is quickly rising. In addition to Leonard, among the most notable so far are former high-profile starters KJ Jefferson (Arkansas), Will Howard (Kansas State), Will Rogers (Mississippi State), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), Max Johnson (Texas A&M) and Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina).





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