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Notre Dame Football

Portal Scouting Notes | QB Riley Leonard

December 5, 2023
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Notre Dame is after one of the top quarterbacks in the transfer portal and they have zeroed in on former Duke quarterback Riley Leonard.

A great athlete with NFL potential, Leonard was projected by some to be a potential first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft before an ankle injury against Notre Dame sidetracked his season. Despite leading Duke to an opening game upset over Clemson and coming very close to a second half comeback against the Irish, Leonard did not make the projected leap into an elite prospect.

That led him to the transfer portal and now he has a chance to greatly upgrade his situation with a much better supporting cast. He’s a much different quarterback than Sam Hartman and is coming from a system that is similar to what Notre Dame runs, which is also a lot different than Hartman.

Out of all the options in the transfer portal, Leonard has the highest ceiling out of any that were multi-year starters.

Duke QB Riley Leonard

- 6-4 228

- team captain

- 21 career starts

- dangerous scrambler, top-25 in scrambling EPA in ‘22

- ability to escape and improvise is a huge asset

via GIPHY

- dual-threat, 19 career rushing touchdowns

- 98 yards rushing vs Clemson

- Very strong with decision-making, protects the football

- 2.8% turnover worthy plays

- 699 rushing in ‘22, 7.3 YPC in ‘23

- 29 missed tackles forced on 28 designed rush attempts

- can make something out of nothing as a runner

via GIPHY

- season was a wash after hurting his ankle vs ND, later injured his toe vs Louisville

- played on one ankle with 0 designed rush attempts in two final games, had 11 vs ND

- A plus arm who can rip it when he has to

- nice rhythm thrower on RPOs

via GIPHY

- Will miss some layups at times, accuracy isn’t always on point

- Will short arm some throws

- Can be streaky as a passer

- only 13% deep attempts in ‘22, 12% in ‘23

- does throw a nice deep ball with touch

via GIPHY

- played behind a bad OL in ‘23

- offense was 121st in returning production in ‘22, finished 28th in ESPN’s QBR

- one NFL player in supporting cast who missed ND game

- 11 drops by receivers in ‘23 (context: ND had 12 all season)

- pressured on 50% of dropbacks vs Clemson, 55.9% vs ND, 52.9% vs FSU, 48.5% vs Louisville

- lack of playmakers impact overall numbers, WR averaged 5.4 YAC per reception in ‘23 (context: 7.4 for ND. 5.2 for Clemson)

 

There are definitely areas where Leonard needs to grow as a passer and there are reasons to believe he can. He has only started 21 career games and is about to enter his fourth year in college. Hartman had started 45 and was entering year six.

I think there are a lot of similarities between Leonard and former Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder. The size, athleticism, and arm talent fit. He was someone who grew a lot as a passer during his career and made a jump every season. Ridder was coached by current Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli as well so he’s a perfect example to point to for someone like Leonard.

There have been portal quarterbacks who have made massive jumps when placed in the right situation with the right talent around them like current Heisman finalists Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. Even Oregon and Washington coaches couldn’t have predicted it could have gone as well as it has with them, so it would be way too much to put those expectations on Leonard.

The reason to point out that it’s happened, though, is that Leonard can still get better. Even if he stays the player he is now, he’s still shown he can be capable of using his legs to make an offense a lot more dangerous while having to account for his ability to run the football.

Clemson and Notre Dame had two of the best defenses in the country and found that out even when they had a plan to contain him.

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