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Riley Leonard Announces Move to Notre Dame

Riley Leonard (Credits: NFL)

Notre Dame secured its top quarterback target on Tuesday, as Duke transfer Riley Leonard announced on social media his commitment to the Fighting Irish.

Leonard will be eligible to play immediately for Notre Dame in what will be his final year of eligibility.

After two strong seasons at Duke, Leonard emerged as one of the top players and quarterbacks in the transfer portal. His impressive performance helped lead the Blue Devils to two successful seasons.

According to sources, a strong family connection influenced Leonard’s decision to choose Notre Dame. His great-grandfather, James E. Curran, played football for the Fighting Irish and was part of the Class of 1940. Despite growing up in Alabama, Leonard has been a dedicated Notre Dame fan, with his favorite movie being “Rudy.”

He is expected to be the immediate starter at Notre Dame, filling the void left by one-year transfer Sam Hartman, who is out of eligibility.

The rest of the quarterback room at Notre Dame is relatively inexperienced. Leonard needs another year of development to become a first-round NFL draft prospect, as his current value in college is more as a dual threat than a pure passer.

In 2022, Leonard led Duke to one of the most significant turnarounds in college football, accounting for 33 touchdowns—20 passing and 13 rushing—as Duke finished 9-4 and defeated UCF in the Military Bowl.

In 2023, Leonard led Duke to a victory over Clemson in the opener and pushed the Blue Devils to their highest national ranking, No. 16, since 1994. However, an ankle injury sustained late in the loss to Notre Dame forced him to miss the following game against NC State.

Riley Leonard (Credits: NFL)

He later aggravated the injury against Florida State before returning against Louisville, where he suffered a toe injury that ended his season. Leonard played seven games in 2023, finishing with 1,102 passing yards, 352 rushing yards, and seven total touchdowns.

In his 21 starts at Duke, Leonard achieved a record of 13-8. In the seven games in 2023, he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for four more. Over his career, he has accumulated 4,450 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 1,224 rushing yards, and 19 rushing touchdowns, with an average of 5.3 yards per carry.

At Notre Dame, the question will be who Leonard can throw to. In Marcus Freeman’s two seasons in South Bend, the wide receiver unit has been one of the program’s weaknesses. Notre Dame fired receivers coach Chansi Stuckey and brought in Mike Brown this offseason.

The Irish have since landed two of the top wide receivers in the NCAA transfer portal, with former Clemson wide receiver Beaux Collins and former Florida International wide receiver Kris Mitchell both committing 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 focused on each other.

On Instagram, Leonard expressed his sentiment: “A dream come true.”

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