Kentucky lands football commitment from the #1 quarterback in the transfer gate

Devin Leary ranks sixth on the NC State career passing yards (6,807) and fourth in passing touchdowns (62).

Devin Leary ranks sixth on the NC State career passing yards (6,807) and fourth in passing touchdowns (62).

AP

One of the best transfer gate quarterbacks is heading to Kentucky as a potential successor to Will Levis.

Former North Carolina quarterback Devin Leary committed a crime against Kentucky on Tuesday, According to On3.com. 247Sports ranked Leary as the No. 2 transfer available at any position and the No. 1 player in the gate as of early December.

In four years at NC State, Leary completed 60.2% of his passes for 6,807 yards, 62 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. His best season came in 2021 when he completed 65.7% of his passes for 3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns, and five interceptions. That year, Leary was named one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which goes to college football’s top player.

Kentucky is in the market for a quarterback transfer following the departure of Levis, who is widely expected to be a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. In two seasons as the starting quarterback at Kentucky after transferring from Penn State, Levis compiled a record of 17-7.

Leary will be the favorite to start in the 2023 opener for Kentucky, but he will face competition from backups running backs Kaiya Sheron and Destin Wade. Sheron and Wade are expected to play in the Music City Bowl against Iowa after Levis opted out of the game to begin preparing for the draft. Wade, a former four-star recruit who was ranked as an athlete, will make his college debut in the bowl as a dual threat option at quarterback.

Here are three things you need to know about the new Kentucky quarterback.

1. A major injury ended Leary’s 2022 season early

While Leary’s 2021 breakout season earned Leary a spot on Heisman Trophy preseason nominee lists, he was unable to replicate that success in 2022 when his season ended after six games because he tore a pectoral muscle on his right side during an NC State game at October 8 vs. Florida.

The injury required surgery just over a week later. In November, Leary told reporters in Fayetteville that he was waiting to see how rehab progressed before deciding whether to return to NC State or enter the 2023 draft.

Instead, Leary entered the Transfer Gate. Had he stayed at NC State, Leary would have worked with a new offensive coordinator since Wolfpack coordinator Tim Peake was hired as Coastal Carolina’s new head coach.

It is unclear when Leary will be able to return to practice.

A torn pectoral muscle was Leary’s second major injury in college. The 2020 season ended early due to a fractured fibula.

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Quarterback Devin Leary is assisted off the field by medical staff during North Carolina State’s game against Florida State on Oct. 8. A torn pectoral muscle on his right side ended Leary’s season. Carl B Deblacker AP

2. Leary broke a NC state record with Philip Rivers

While 2022 had to be seen as a disappointment for Leary, he left NC State as one of the best quarterbacks in program history.

Leary ranks sixth on the NC State career passing yards (6,807) and fourth in passing touchdowns (62). His 35 passing touchdowns in 2021 broke the Philip Rivers school record for most in a season.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Leary is the only NC State player to throw for at least four touchdowns in five games against ACC opponents in a single season and the only Wolfpack to throw for at least four touchdowns in three games Consecutive. At one point, he threw 228 consecutive passes without an interception.

Leary’s record-breaking performance wasn’t limited to 2021 either.

Earlier this fall, he became just the third NC State quarterback to score six touchdowns in a single game in a win over Charleston Southern. He was the only player on that list to throw for four touchdowns and rush for two in the same game.

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Devin Leary is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 2 transfer available at any position and the No. 1 player in the gate as of early December. Ethan Heyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

3. Like Levis, Leary comes to the UK from the North East

A native of Connecticut, Levis was a rare Kentucky football player from New England. Leary also grew up in the Northeast, albeit in Mid-Atlantic rather than New England.

A former Timer Creek High School star, Leary graduated as the all-time leader in passing yards (9,672) and passing touchdowns (117) in New Jersey high school football history. He was twice named NJ’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

As a high school senior, Leary was rated a four-star prospect by both Rivals and 247Sports. 247Sports ranked Leary the #16 professional quarterback in the high school class of 2018.

Next season, Naasir Addison, Leary’s commitment and 2023 high school defensive back, could become the first New Jersey native to play for Kentucky since 2018 National Defensive Player of the Year and current Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen.

John Hill is the University of Kentucky football strike writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He joined the Herald-Leader in 2022 but has covered UK athletics for over 10 years. Hill was named the 2021 Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year.


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