First, Duke lost its coach. Now, it has lost its quarterback.
Junior signal caller Riley Leonard entered the transfer portal Wednesday, as he announced via an Instagram post. The early favorite to land the Fairhope, Ala., native is Notre Dame.
Leonard entered the portal with a no-contact tag on his entry, meaning that teams cannot reach out to him, but he can reach out to them. ESPN's Pete Thamel reported that Notre Dame is expected to target the dual-threat quarterback.
Update Dec 12: Leonard has announced his commitment to Notre Dame via Instagram. This is the second-straight year the Fighting Irish are turning to the ACC to find a quarterback in the transfer portal, as they recruited Sam Hartman from Wake Forest a year ago.
Leonard was named as starter ahead of the 2022 season, beating out now-wide receiver Jordan Moore in a preseason quarterback battle. He saw instant success for the Blue Devils, completing 63.9% of his passes for 2,967 yards and 20 touchdowns while adding 699 yards on the ground for 13 scores. Leonard was an Honorable Mention All-ACC selection and was named MVP of the Military Bowl, which Duke won 30-13 against UCF.
This season, Leonard entered with lofty expectations and was named a team captain, but his junior campaign was marred with a series of injuries. He first injured his ankle in Week 5 against Notre Dame, reinjured it in his return against Florida State, then suffered a significant injury to his other foot against Louisville. The Blue Devils lost all three games.
Despite missing significant time, Leonard still showed promise as a possible NFL-caliber signal caller. After his Week 1 performance against Clemson, in which he totaled 175 passing yards and 98 rushing yards, there was noise surrounding his name as one of the nation’s top prospects.
In Leonard’s absence, Duke turned to two backups: redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV and true freshman Grayson Loftis. Belin also fell to injury, though, and made just one start against N.C. State, in which he completed just four passes. Loftis started the final four games for the Blue Devils, and led them to two conference victories against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh.
With the departure of former head coach Mike Elko to Texas A&M and the return of Belin to clean health, Loftis is likely not guaranteed the starting spot next season, and Duke may see another quarterback duel.
A dual-threat athlete that was also recruited to play basketball in college, Leonard will enter next season as one of the country’s top returning quarterbacks — wherever he may land. Leonard’s departure marks the third player to enter the transfer portal since Elko announced his departure Monday.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.