Auburn, Ala.--Signed as almost an afterthought in the 2012 class after getting a late offer from the Auburn Tigers and flipping his commitment from Southern Miss, redshirt junior Robert Leff has kept up the work ethic that turned him into an SEC-level prospect at Fairhope High and he’s now seeing the fruits of that labor under Gus Malzahn’s staff.
Working at both left and right tackle the last two seasons, Leff was exclusively on the left side this spring behind Shon Coleman, but when the big junior was banged up towards the end of practice it meant Leff’s time to shine. Earning the start at left tackle in last Saturday’s A-D Game, left played well and showed the coaching staff he’s a very viable option at the position if needed.
“It’s huge,” Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee said of Leff’s development. “You’re always at every position that’s one of your big concerns is who’s going to be not only the starter, but who’s the next guy up if something happens. Robert’s a guy now that’s been here a couple of years, he’s a smart kid, got good size, good athleticism and like I said, really expecting a lot out of him next year and thought he had a pretty good spring overall.”
Leff’s development started long before this spring as a player that bounced around at many different positions on the line, first under Jeff Grimes and now under the guidance of J.B. Grimes. That taught him to be prepared for anything, something that is always important on the offensive line, Still, Leff said being able to concentrate finally at just one spot was huge for him this spring.
“Oh yeah definitely solidifying one position helped,” Leff said. “Last year I was mostly at guard just to fill in for injuries and everything. Playing tackle solid at one side has definitely helped me improve a lot.
Along with settling in at one spot, Leff also has the luxury of having some experience under his belt. While his game reps are still very limited, just knowing the offense and getting those reps in practice for the last two years is something that is a key to his development as well.
“I feel a million times more comfortable,” Leff said. “It’s just natural. The game has slowed down a lot and it’s a lot more fun to play especially. I feel like I can just get my assignments done better whereas before I struggled.”
Ready to play if needed, Leff is likely to be watching much of the action again this season barring an injury to either Coleman or Avery Young. With those two veterans outside, Braden Smith at one guard and the return of Alex Kozan at left guard, Leff said he feels like the line is going to once again be a strength for the team in 2015.
“I think the offensive line is going to be very solid by the time the fall rolls around,” Leff said. “We’re bonding for sure.”