Former Duke QB Riley Leonard transfers to Notre Dame (2:35)Pete Thamel, Desmond Howard and Tom Luginbill react to Notre Dame bringing in Riley Leonard and Beaux Collins. (2:35)
Riley will be able to play immediately for the Irish in what will be his final year of eligibility.
Leonard emerged as one of the top players and quarterbacks in the portal after back-to-back strong seasons at Duke, where his play led the Blue Devils to a pair of high-end seasons.
According to sources, there was a strong family pull that played a role in him choosing Notre Dame. Leonard's great-grandfather, James E. Curran, played football for the Fighting Irish and was part of the Class of 1940. Leonard grew up in Alabama but was a devout enough Notre Dame fan that his favorite move is "Rudy."
He'll be projected as the immediate starter at Notre Dame, as one-year transfer Sam Hartman is out of eligibility and the rest of the quarterback room is inexperienced. Leonard will need another year of development to work his way into the first-round NFL draft conversation, as his value in college now is more as a dual threat than a pure passer.
In 2022, he led Duke to one of the biggest turnarounds in college football, as he accounted for 33 touchdowns -- 20 passing and 13 rushing -- as Duke went 9-4 and blew out UCF in the Military Bowl.
In 2023, he led Duke to a win over Clemson in the opener and pushed the Blue Devils to the school's highest national ranking, No. 16, since 1994. Leonard was hobbled by an ankle injury suffered late in the loss to Notre Dame, which forced him to miss the following week's game against NC State.
He later aggravated the ankle injury against Florida State before returning against Louisville and suffering a toe injury that ended his season. He played seven games on the season, finishing with 1,102 yards passing, 352 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns on the year.
In 21 starts at Duke, he went 13-8. In the seven games in 2023, he threw three touchdown passes and rushed for four more. For his career, he's thrown for 4,450 yards and 24 touchdowns and run for 1,224 and 19 touchdowns. He has averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
The question for Leonard at Notre Dame will be who he can throw the ball to. For both of Marcus Freeman's seasons in South Bend, the wide receiver unit has been among the program's weaknesses. Notre Dame fired receivers coach Chansi Stuckey and brought in Mike Brown this offseason.
The Irish have landed two of the top wide receivers in the NCAA transfer portal, as former Clemson wide receiver Beaux Collins and former Florida International wide receiver Kris Mitchell have both committed to Notre Dame.
For Leonard, Notre Dame was the only official visit he took after announcing his transfer from Duke. Both he and Notre Dame appeared locked in on each other.
On Instagram, Leonard summed it up this way: "A dream come true."
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