“We Won’t Be Rooting for Each Other” – Mike Elko Sets Battle Lines for Reunion With Riley Leonard

    Mike Elko will face his former QB Riley Leonard in Week 1, and the Texas A&M head coach knows how dangerous the Notre Dame QB is.

    Mike Elko and Riley Leonard will be reunited in their opening game of the 2024 college football season. The new Texas A&M Aggies head coach and Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback worked in tandem for three and a half seasons at the Duke Blue Devils before taking fresh opportunities and going separate ways.

    When the Aggies and Fighting Irish face off in the opening weekend, it will mark just how quickly situations and personnel can change in today’s game.

    Mike Elko To Face Riley Leonard To Open the 2024 College Football Season

    Elko and Leonard will go head-to-head in Kyle Filed on August 31, and the Texas A&M head coach knows firsthand how challenging the Aggies’ first game of the season will be. A former Notre Dame offensive coordinator himself, the game is full of storylines.

    The pair competed together for over three seasons in Durham, North Carolina, turning the Blue Devils into a competitive program. Despite injuries in 2023, Leonard blossomed into one of the leading QBs in the nation under Elko’s leadership.

    After Elko replaced Jimbo Fisher as Texas A&M head coach, Leonard entered the transfer portal and was quickly linked to Notre Dame.

    With Fighting Irish QB Sam Hartman completing his final season of eligibility, Notre Dame needed an experienced playmaker to fulfill its aspirations of making the 12-team College Football Playoff in 2024.

    Talking to Andy Staples from On3, Elko said the match-up “is the modern era of college football, right? This is how it goes nowadays.”

    The thought of Elko and Leonard lining up on opposite sidelines to open the 2024 season would have been unthinkable just a year ago. There is little doubt that the landscape of college football has changed. However, Elko’s appreciation and admiration for his former QB hasn’t.

    “Obviously, I’ve got so much respect for Riley,” Elko said. “He’s such a great kid, and a great quarterback, and a great competitor. I’d pick an awful lot of quarterbacks I’d rather have be on the other sideline for me in my opener than him. But it is what it is, and that’s the world we live in today. I think there’s a lot of mutual respect between the two of us.

    “But I think he knows like I know we’re both high-level competitors, too. For those three and a half hours, we won’t be rooting for each other. And then, we’ll shake hands and wish each other the best for the rest of the year.”

    Notre Dame will likely be favored in the game as the program pushes for a playoff appearance.

    For Elko, he is attempting to rebuild an Aggies program that has seen many five-star players enter the transfer portal.

    KEEP READING: 2025 SEC Recruiting Rankings

    The former Duke HC proved he could do it at the Blue Devils, and he will now look to apply his leadership in College Station.

    Miss any action from the top college QB Rankings during the 2023 football season? Want to track all the movement with the college football transfer portal? College Football Network has you covered with that and more!

    College Football Transfer Portal Tracker

    Never miss a beat with the CFN-exclusive College Football Transfer Portal Tracker, listing the student-athletes entering and exiting the transfer portal.

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