Duke football: Riley Leonard getting closer to returning to lineup

Duke football quarterback Riley Leonard (Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke football quarterback Riley Leonard (Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke football quarterback Riley Leonard could return this week against Florida State. 

The biggest question surrounding the Duke football program entering the bye week was the health of quarterback Riley Leonard’s ankle and it still circles the team despite its victory last week.

Freshman signal caller Henry Belin IV led the Blue Devils to a 24-3 victory over North Carolina State despite head coach Mike Elko calling Leonard “day-to-day” throughout the week.

Speculation rose even more when the Duke football social media accounts posted a picture of Leonard’s jersey over his shoulder pads in the locker room pregame.

However, it was announced shortly after that Belin would make his first career start.

Leonard suffered a high ankle sprain in the final drive two weeks ago in Duke’s loss to Notre Dame.

The competition rises this week for the No. 16 Blue Devils as they will tangle with No. 4 Florida State in its second road game of the season — and first road game against a ranked game this year.

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Elko continued with his message that Riley Leonard is “day-to-day” during his weekly press conference on Monday but sounded much different on his radio show on Tuesday night.

“Riley [Leonard] is doing good, he really is,” Elko said. “He was out there practicing today and throwing the ball around.”

“He’s still day-to-day.”

Leonard is completing 62.6-percent of his passes this season and has thrown for a total of 912 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for four scores and 326 yards — second most on the team.

“We will not put him in position to put that ankle at risk. But, I do think there is a chance we’re able to get him back healthy on Saturday and able to be playing at the level he’s capable of playing,” Elko added.

Duke football offense will have major challenge against Florida State

Florida State is only allowing its opponents to score 18.3 points per game and quarterbacks to throw for 221.7 yards per contest.

Duke, with Henry Belin under center against the Wolfpack, only threw the ball 12 times and completed four passes for 107 yards despite two touchdowns in some adverse weather conditions.

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“We will be smart with him, he is our quarterback. He’s also a young man that’s got a bright future on and off the football field,” Mike Elko continued. “We’ll never put that at risk for one football game, but we hope to get him back as quickly as possible.”

The Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0 ACC) and Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 ACC) kickoff at 7:30p.m. ET (ABC) in Tallahassee.

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