Devin Leary leads Kentucky into new era vs. Ball State


The Devin Leary era for Kentucky begins Saturday when the Wildcats host the Ball State Cardinals in Lexington, Ky., in the season opener for both schools.

A transfer from NC State, Leary will have big cleats to fill in replacing Will Levis, UK’s signal-caller over the past two seasons and a second-round draft pick (33rd overall) by the Tennessee Titans in April.

Leary, 23, should fit right in with the Wildcats, who are coming off a 7-6 (3-5 SEC) mark and a 21-0 loss to Iowa in the Music City Bowl last year.

Leary tore a pectoral muscle on Oct. 8 and finished the 2022 season with 1,265 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions in six games. In 2021, the New Jersey native passed for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns against five picks. He passed for 6,807 yards and 62 TDs in four seasons — two of which included season-ending injuries.

An ESPN analyst named Leary the year’s most significant transfer — high praise in this age of abundant portal entries.

No argument from Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen.

“Extremely accurate,” Coen told The Athletic this week. “And not just one day, but really every day. He’s consistently making these throws. … He’s made every throw you can ask a quarterback to make at this level.”

Coach Mike Neu and Ball State, which went 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference in 2022, will have their own transfer quarterback — Texas State’s Layne Hatcher.

Hatcher’s journey began after being named Arkansas’ Gatorade Player of the Year and joining Alabama in 2018. He soon transferred to Arkansas State, where he was the 2019 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.

The Little Rock native’s experience should be a big plus beginning Saturday.

“(Hatcher’s) seen a lot, he’s been exposed to a lot,” Neu said. “Layne’s experience and being in that type of environment (at Kentucky) certainly (is) in his favor.”

Ball State’s next outing will also be a road game against SEC opposition — top-ranked Georgia.

–Field Level Media

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