Devin Leary: Worth knowing about the new Football QB in Kentucky

One of the transfer portal’s top-ranked quarterbacks is moving to Kentucky as the likely successor to Will Levis.

Former North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary signed for Kentucky on Tuesday. according to 247Sports ranked Leary as the #2 available transfer at every position and the #1 quarterback on the portal in 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 quarterback.

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

Devin Leary ranks sixth in NC State’s list for passing yards (6,807) and fourth in passing touchdowns (62). Jacob Kupfermann AP

Leary will be the big favorite to start Kentucky’s 2023 opener, but he will face competition from returning backups Kaiya Sheron and Destin Wade. Sheron and Wade are expected to play Iowa in the Music City Bowl after Levis pulled out of the game to prepare for the draft. Wade, a former four-star recruit who is classified as an athlete, will make his collegiate debut in the bowl as a dual-threat option at quarterback.

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

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

While Leary’s 2021 breakout season earned Leary a spot on the preseason Heisman Trophy candidate lists, he was unable to replicate that accomplishment in 2022 when his season ended after six games because he slipped during the Oct. 8 game against NC State Pectoral muscle on his right side torn Florida State.

The injury only required surgery more than a week later. In November, Leary told reporters in Fayetteville he was waiting to see how his rehab is going before deciding whether to return to NC state or participate in the 2023 draft.

Instead, Leary entered the transfer portal. Had he stayed at NC State, Leary would have worked with a new offensive coordinator, as Wolfpack coordinator Tim Beck was hired as the new head coach at Coastal Carolina.

It is unclear when Leary can start training again.

The pectoral tear was Leary’s second serious injury in college. His 2020 season ended prematurely with a broken fibula.

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

2. Leary broke one of Phillip Rivers’ NC State records

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

Leary ranks sixth in NC State’s list for passing yards (6,807) and fourth in passing touchdowns (62). His 35 passing touchdowns in 2021 broke Phillip Rivers’ school record for most in a single season.

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

Leary’s record-breaking performances weren’t limited to 2021 either.

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

Devin Leary was ranked the #2 available transfer at every position and the #1 quarterback on the portal by 247Sports in early December. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

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

A Connecticut native, Levis was the rare Kentucky football player from New England. Leary was also raised in the Northeast, although in the mid-Atlantic rather than New England.

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

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

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

This story was originally published December 20, 2022 12:23 p.m.

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Jon Hale is the University of Kentucky football beat writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He joined the Herald-Leader in 2022 but has been reporting on British athletics for more than 10 years. Hale was named the 2021 Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year.

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