TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—First he was week-to-week. Then day-to-day. Now, he's mere minutes from starting in Duke's biggest game in recent memory.
On Saturday evening, junior quarterback Riley Leonard was confirmed as Duke's starting signal caller against No. 4 Florida State, putting to bed a week of rumors about whether he would make his return from a high-ankle sprain suffered in the final play against Notre Dame in September.
The Fairhope, Ala., native missed last weekend's contest against N.C. State at Wallace Wade Stadium but was seen warming up without a boot or crutches, both of which he used to exit the field after Duke's loss to the Fighting Irish. In his stead, backup Henry Belin IV took the reins under center, leading the Blue Devils to a 24-3 win against the Wolfpack on 4-for-12 passing, two touchdowns and an interception.
Although Belin led Duke to a win against N.C. State, Leonard — who has been projected by some as a potential NFL draft first-rounder — makes his return as the undisputed starter and the linchpin of head coach Mike Elko's offense. Aside from his talented arm, Leonard is perhaps best known for his ability to scramble and turn near-sacks into lengthy gains, such as his marauding house calls in Duke's 2022 defeat against North Carolina and 2023 season-opening victory against then-No. 9 Clemson.
The Blue Devils, ranked 16th in the country, kick off against the undefeated Seminoles — widely considered a College Football Playoff contender — Saturday evening at Doak Campbell Stadium.
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Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.