We continue our countdown of the key players for the Auburn football Tigers in 2016 with a look at Robert Leff on offense.
Auburn, Ala.--It used to be the normal thing for an offensive lineman to redshirt his first season and steadily work his way up the depth chart before finally earning a starting role as an upperclassman. That is not the case any longer, but for Auburn senior Robert Leff it has been an old school rise from the redshirt ranks for the Tigers as he heads into the 2016 season a favorite to be the starter at right tackle.
Originally committed to Southern Miss, Leff is a player who showed good footwork as a prospect at Fairhope High with the ability to attack the second level of a defense. The one question mark for him was bulk, something that has been a problem all the way through his Auburn career.
Without the 300-plus pound size he was used in a tight end role each of the last two seasons before finally getting his shot to play offensive tackle last year when Shon Coleman was injured against Georgia. Showing he has got the skills to get the job done, Leff heads into the year as one of the players who is most excited about finally getting to show what he can do in an Auburn uniform.
Best Case Scenario: A player who grew up dreaming of playing for the Auburn Tigers, Leff will be as determined as anyone to make his opportunity turn into reality this fall. Very well respected by his teammates because of the way he works, Leff’s size and strength finally match up to his talent and he turns into a very strong right tackle for the Tigers.
Worst Case Scenario: The strength factor is the only question mark remaining for Leff and playing Clemson in the opener should give Coach Herb Hand a good idea of where the fifth-year senior stands early in the season. Squaring off against a very talented group of ACC Tigers, Leff needs to have a good day for an Auburn offense that has plenty of questions to answer this fall.
Career Comparison: The guy who comes to mind in terms of career would be Jonathan Palmer. He came to Auburn as an athletic player, but it took him until his senior season to find a full-time starting job with the Tigers. Palmer ended up getting a shot to play in the NFL following a solid final year on the Plains, something I could see happening for Leff as well.
Leff At His Best: Forced into action early against Georgia, Leff was physical at the point of attack and did good things in the running game against a good front four for the Bulldogs. That is a huge confidence booster for the tackle as he heads into the 2016 season.
Quote: “He's a guy we have a lot of confidence in,” Coach Gus Malzahn said. “He did a very good job last year. He played a tight end role, but he also started a couple of games and did a very good job when he got in. He's a veteran guy. He's a guy you can count on. His teammates have a lot of respect for him. He's a tough guy, too. We're pleased at where he's at.”