Stoops says Leary is a natural leader

Published 1:25 pm Thursday, April 6, 2023


UK Athletics

On nearly every football team, the quarterback tends to become a natural leader. As the person who calls the plays in the offensive huddle and who is required to make things happen with the football in his hands, it just makes sense for

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Playing the quarterback position, Devin Leary will be the leader of at least the offense for the Cats this season. With his experience of playing four years at the Division I level, Leary will be expected to carry a big load for the Cats despite being new to the team.

Leary spent four seasons at N.C. State, playing in 30 career games for the Wolfpack. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 6,807 yards with 62 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions.

Now, Leary is the heir apparent to Will Levis as the Kentucky starting quarterback. That’s the easy part. Becoming a leader requires a lot more and can’t be forced, according to UK head coach Mark Stoops.

“I think he’s a very natural leader,” Stoops said. “He’s trying not to force it. He’s trying to earn the respect of his team and just get out there and make sure he masters his craft in his backyard at this point.”

Stoops likes what he sees from Leary as far as his ability to lead others.

“He definitely has some leadership skills,” Stoops said. “He does a lot of things behind the scenes and he doesn’t have to be vocal. He spends an awful lot of time with the wideouts, the wide receivers, the running backs, watching film, spending time with them. So, he’s doing a lot extra.”

Stoops believes that Leary and UK offensive coordinator Liam Coen are working well together because they are cut from the same cloth.

“That’s easy, really easy for them,” Stoops said. “They’re both guys that are junkies, that are up there watching film. Devin is a very bright guy, he’s been around. That’s a very easy transition.”

On Saturday, Leary and the Cats held an open practice on a windy day in Lexington. That made it tough for the Cats to do some things, although Stoops was pleased with what he saw from his signal caller.

“Pretty tough day to see exactly what we have with that wind blowing the way it was,” Stoops said. “That makes it difficult to get the ball down the field. I thought Devin looked good on the RPO, some of the quick game. Connecting early and moving the football.”

Because of the weather conditions, Leary was forced to put a little extra into some of the throws he made, just to get them through the wind.

“I think you saw that today, partially with the wind and getting the ball out quick,” Stoops said. “Some of that, when you saw those zingers, were RPOs were tight windows. I thought, early on, the completion he made to T-Rob (Tayvion Robinson), there wasn’t a big window there. I was standing right behind it and it didn’t look open at all. It was a really nice throw, he threw it the only place it could be caught.”

Leary’s maturity and accuracy should make him a good fit in Coen’s offense. It’s the intangibles he has that will make him a leader for the Cats.