Not Yet Satisfied

One Mountaineer linebacker is hoping to make the most of his opportunity with the first team this spring.

With regard to spring football practices in Morgantown, you can always count on a number of certainties. First and foremost is that there will be ugly weather on most days. Not nasty, with wind, thunder, lightning, etc. Just dreary, mild and generally ugly.

Another certainty of spring ball is that a handful of veteran stalwarts will observe spring drills from the sidelines in red jerseys as they recover from offseason surgeries which are becoming more a part of college football year in and year out.

And a third certainty, in conjunction with the injured veterans, is that coaches will put younger players in a position to make some noise on the depth chart.

Such is the case with sophomore-to-be linebacker Anthony Leonard. Mainly a special teams contributor last season, Leonard has spent each of the first eight spring practices running with the first-team defense at middle linebacker. Senior Reed Williams, he of Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP honors, is sitting out the spring as he continues to recover from January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Thus, an opportunity for Leonard to prove his worth in Jeff Casteel's ranks with hopes of being part of the linebacker rotation in August.

More than halfway through spring drills, it is safe to say that Leonard is by and large pleased with his play with the number ones. To say he is completely satisfied, however, would be inaccurate.

"Everything is going just fine," he said. "I'm not where I want to be, but I'm still making progress. That's the best thing."

Truth be told, the former AAAA all-state performer from McKeesport (Pa.) High must be doing something right. After all, one doesn't hang with the first unit for eight straight workouts if he's standing out on film for all the wrong reasons.

Taking the approach of a realist, Leonard acknowledges areas where he would like to improve, both physically and mentally.

"I want to be in game shape," he explained. "I want to gain Coach Casteel's trust. I am well with the speed of the game, I just need to get in better shape and learn the playbook. That's the main thing right there.

"My main goal is to just take everything one step at a time, and get well-adjusted to the playbook. Like I said, it's going well but it's not where I want to be. I still have a lot of work to do to gain Coach Casteel's trust for this season."

Chances are if Leonard continues his day-by-day progression, he will earn the trust of Casteel, head coach Bill Stewart, and his teammates while also adding yet another playmaker to the mix at what looks to be a very talented corps of linebackers.


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