Hart Looking To Tackle The Challenge As A Freshman

Offensive lineman Leon Hart talks about getting ready for his freshman season and his expectations for 2004.

Auburn, Ala.–-There is little doubt that any of the newcomers to the Auburn football program on Thursday got as much attention in the last year as 6-4, 285-pound offensive lineman Leon Hart. One of the nation's most sought-after recruits coming out of Columbia, S.C., Hart had his choice of a wide variety of colleges before choosing the Tigers.

Considered the South's top offensive line prospect, Hart possesses quick feet and a bullish attitude on the field, but off the field is a student in every sense of the word. Planning to major in engineering at Auburn, Hart has his head on straight off the field and he says coming to the Plains early this summer helped him get prepared for a new chapter in his life.

"It has been real good," Hart says. "I had a chance to come up here June 15 and do the summer program and start working out and running with the team. It has given me a chance to get to know some of the players. I have had a good time."

One positive for Hart is that he has a friend to lean on during the normal rough times a freshman has in college. Former high school teammate Travis Williams, expected to be the starting middle linebacker, is a junior on the Auburn team and was instrumental in Hart's decision to become a Tiger. The freshman says that getting to know some of the older players over the summer has been an enjoyable experience heading into his first two-a-days.

"A lot of the older offensive linemen like Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick and Travis Williams, a guy that's from my high school, have really shown me the ropes since I've been here," Hart says. "I think having Travis here has been really good as far as showing me the ropes, introducing me to players, and just letting me know everything about Auburn that I need to know. He's going to keep it real for me and let me know what I need to know."

Leon Hart was a prep All-American at Spring Valley High prior to coming to AU.

Dominating at the point of attack in high school, Hart is expected to get his first look at left tackle behind McNeill and could push the junior if McNeill's back injury problems flare up again this season. If McNeill is solid things open up for Hart, who could see action at any of the offensive positions if needed because of his talent and footwork.

"Coach Nall (Hugh Nall) is going to be working me at left tackle and right tackle," Hart says. "We'll just see how things work after two-a-days. I feel more comfortable on the outside playing tackle. I'm hope I end up staying there, but I'll play wherever Coach Nall wants me to play on the offensive line."

Like most of his new teammates Hart spent the majority of the summer in Auburn running and conditioning with Coach Kevin Yoxall. Seeing and experiencing what the players go through in the off-season has given Hart a healthy respect for what college football players endure to be ready for fall afternoons.

"Conditioning in high school and college is totally different," Hart notes. "Really I think it's all in your head. If you're willing to compete hard and work hard then you'll get through it a lot easier. It's a lot more running and a lot more intense."

Coach Tommy Tuberville has noted that Hart is a player who could playing time as a true freshman. Hart says that despite the vote of confidence from his head coach he knows that it's going to take hard work and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make his goals reachable in 2004.

"My goals for my freshman year are just to get to know the system good, to compete and work my way up towards some playing time," he says. One of my big goals is to work hard and eventually work my way up to getting a lot of playing time."


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