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College Football players to watch in 2023: Part 14

In this weekly series, I will highlight some of the top players to watch ahead of the 2023 College Football season, which is set to begin on August 26. We will go from the SEC to the MAC and everywhere in between. Part 14 features Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, Cal safety Patrick McMorris, Central Michigan offensive guard Deiyantei Powell-Woods, Charlotte defensive end Eyabi Okie, Cincinnati nose tackle Dontay Corleone and East Carolina safety Julius Wood.

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard

Leonard is one of the most undervalued quarterbacks nationally. In his first full season with Duke (2022), he threw for just under 3,000 yards (2,967), 20 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He also had an impressive 64% completion percentage.

Photo via Duke Athletics

Leonard is not just a threat with his arm, but he is a threat with his legs as well. In 2022, he ran for 699 yards and 13 touchdowns in addition to his 20 passing touchdowns. Leonard will be one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC this season.

Cal safety Patrick McMorris

McMorris was one of the most underrated transfer portal pickups of the offseason. He comes to Berkeley from San Diego State. He posted 162 career tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 15 passes defended and five interceptions in four seasons with SDSU.

Photo via Cal Athletics

McMorris instantly upgrades the Cal secondary. He will likely play strong safety for the Golden Bears who are looking to get back to a bowl game for the first time since 2019 under head coach Justin Wilcox.

Central Michigan OG Deiyantei Powell-Woods

Powell-Woods is the top player on what should be an improved Central Michigan offensive line. He has started 25 consecutive games for the Chippewas dating back to the 2021 season. Powell-Woods was a team captain for five games last season.

Photo by Mike Mulholland

At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Powell-Woods is a force on the offensive line. He was part of the offensive line that blocked for Lew Nichols III, the nation's leading rusher in 2021. Powell-Woods has a future in professional football.

Charlotte defensive end Eyabi Okie

Okie was arguably the best transfer new head coach Biff Poggi landed in his first season at Charlotte. There is no doubt that he is talented, but Okie hasn’t found consistent playing time at his two previous stops (Alabama and Michigan).

Photo by Thornton/Getty Images

Last year in Ann Arbor, Okie posted 18 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He should be a day one starter along the defensive line for the 49ers. The 6-foot-5 Okie will be tough for opposing offensive lines to block.

Cincinnati nose tackle Dontay Corleone

Corleone is a formidable nose tackle on the Cincinnati defensive line. He and Jowon Briggs are a really good duo in the trenches for the Bearcats. Corleone totaled 45 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season.

Photo via Cincinnati Athletics

He was named to the Big 12 Preseason All-Conference team just a few days ago. In 2022, Corleone was named Third Team All-American by the Associated Press. Corleone has an NFL future.

East Carolina safety Julius Wood

Wood had a breakout season with East Carolina last fall. The 6-foot-2 safety totaled 87 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, one touchdown, seven passes defended and three forced fumbles.

Photo by Savanna Elkins/247Sports

Expect to see Wood have similar production this season for the Pirates. He will be the leader of a defensive secondary that lost some key pieces this offseason.

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