Riley Leonard should be in Heisman conversation, says Duke coach Mike Elko
Riley Leonard and the Duke Blue Devils have a massive opportunity ahead of them Saturday night.
The 11th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish come to Durham for a top-25 matchup. ESPN’s College GameDay will be live from campus. And Duke will have a chance to move to 5-0 on a season for the first time since the 90s.
“The one thing that we have is we have tremendous character in this locker room,” Duke coach Mike Elko said Friday during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show. “We’ve got a lot of kids who are willing to do an awful lot for each other and I think that, in this day and age, still wins football games.”
And Leonard leads the charge.
The junior quarterback from Fairhope, Alabama, threw for 2,967 yards, ran for another 699 yards, and scored 33 total touchdowns a season ago for a Duke team that burst onto the scene in Elko’s first year. It was just the third 9-win season for the Blue Devils since joining the ACC.
And Leonard’s play through the first four games has Duke dreaming of bigger and better things this season. McAfee brought up Leonard and mentioned that he’s not yet in the Heisman Trophy conversation before Elko jumped in.
“Should be, if we can get that out there,” Elko said. “Should be.”
The numbers are a little modest compared to some of his quarterback peers in college football this season. Leonard has 778 yards and two touchdowns, with another 238 rushing yards and four scores. He’s 21st nationally in Total QBR.
But Leonard has a stage Saturday night to push his name into that conversation.
“The thing that the world is starting to figure out is this kid has an unbelievable amount of moxie, and his ability to kind of elevate himself at the right moment and make plays is unbelievable,” Elko said. “He’s a tremendous athlete, we saw that in the Clemson game. He can throw the ball, he can make all the throws on the field. And he’s kind of been our guy since we’ve been here. I think everyone else has just kind of taken a little bit more notice of him now.”
Kickoff between the Blue Devils and the Irish is set for 7:30 ET on ABC.