The transfer portal was a wild and rambunctious ride as it seemingly always is. There was a ton of movement in the 2023-24 college football offseason, from coaches and players alike. One team that was very active in the transfer portal: Notre Dame football.

The Fighting Irish brought in a ton of top notch talent out of the portal, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Notre Dame football was able to snag commitments from wide receivers Beaux Collins (Clemson), Kris Mitchell (Florida International), and Jayden Harrison (Marshall). Notre Dame did make some additions defensively as well, including cornerbacks Rod Heard (Northwestern) and Jordan Clark (Arizona State).

But the biggest transfer the Irish made is the one with the most to prove: former Duke quarterback Riley Leonard.

Riley Leonard, Quarterback

Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard (13) looks to pass the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Leonard was regarded as a potential top pick for the 2024 NFL Draft entering the 2023 college football season. It's easy to see why, as Leonard looks the part at 6-4 212 pounds.

He really burst onto the scene in the 2022 season, where he completed a career-best 63.9% of his passes and averaged a career-best 7.6 yards per attempt. Duke's offense wasn't the high-flying machine many college football offenses are, but Leonard did manage to put up nearly 3,000 yards passing to go with 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions.

Leonard wasn't just a statue in the pocket that season either. He added a ton with his legs and made a series of big plays as a runner. He ran for 699 yards on 124 carries in 2022. Considering that includes sack yardage, those numbers are really good. Those wheels were on display in Duke's season-opening upset of the Clemson Tigers to kick off the 2023 season.

Leonard looked poised to build off of his strong 2022 campaign, but things did not go according to plan. Leonard injured his ankle against, oddly enough, Notre Dame in the middle of the season and wasn't the same player after.

He played in only two games after but wasn't very effective in either. His numbers suffered as a result. In 2023, Leonard finished with a career-low 57.6% completion percentage and had just 1,102 passing yards and three touchdowns to three interceptions.

Even when he was healthy, however, Leonard did not play his best against the best teams. Clemson and Notre Dame boasted two of the best defenses in college football. Duke did beat Clemson but fell at the hands of Notre Dame. But, Leonard was not great as a passer in those games.

He completed only 29 of his 60 passes in those two games and accumulated only 309 passing yards. That is not great by any means. Leonard did not play either of those two teams in 2022, but he managed to complete at least 60% of his passes in five of eight conference games and at least 65% of his passes in half of his conference games.

Notre Dame football has just about everything a team would need in order to compete for a national championship. Their defense was one of the best in college football in 2023. They allowed the eighth fewest yards per game last season defensively; only Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Ohio, Iowa, Air Force, and Clemson were better in that metric.

They also allowed the eighth-fewest points per game as well. That defense showed up in big games too. They allowed only 17 points to Ohio State, 14 points to Duke, and 20 points to Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans.

Sam Hartman played well for Notre Dame last season, but does not have the mobility Leonard does. Leonard has probably a more lively and dynamic arm as well. Leonard can lift this team over the top. He has to live up to the hype and deliver to get Notre Dame where they want to go.