Fla. WR ecstatic with Badgers

Montari Leonard, a speedy 5-foot-10, 160-pound prospect, has three scholarship offers

Montari Leonard feels he has a good idea which college football program is going to eventually receive his verbal commitment. But the 5-foot-10, 160-pound class of 2007 wide receiver/cornerback prospect does not want to make his final decision for several months.

"I had Wisconsin in my top five for a long time, and when the season gets down to the wire that's who I think I'm going to commit to," Leonard said in a telephone interview Thursday night.

Leonard, though, does not plan on making a final decision until the fall, once he is a couple games into his senior season at Deland (Fla.) High School.

"I would just like to go play in the Big Ten," Leonard said. "The Big Ten or the Big 12 — that's all that I've been wanting to play in. And Wisconsin is a team that I've liked. I had them in my top five ever since I started getting recruited. When it comes down to it that's where I think I'm going to go ahead and commit to."

Leonard currently has three scholarship offers.

"I have Wisconsin, Missouri, Middle Tennessee State," he said. "That's it for right now…

"I'll probably have Southern Mississippi by the end of this week or next week."

The Badgers are recruiting Leonard as a wide receiver, while Missouri and Southern Mississippi are looking at him as a cornerback. Leonard also said he is receiving heavy interest from Louisville and that he is interested in Ohio State.

So what leads a student-athlete born and raised in Florida to develop a preference for the Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East? In particular, what has Leonard so excited for a chance to visit Wisconsin, with an inclination toward committing to that program?

"I had recognized that Wisconsin loves football up there," Leonard said. "I know it's near Green Bay and I know they just bring a packed house every week. I would like to play in (front of a capacity crowd) like that.

"And I want the experience of playing in the cold and see how that feels."

For the record, Leonard is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins fan (his favorite player is Santana Moss), so the affection for the Midwest is not quite all encompassing.

When it comes to prospective colleges, though, Leonard is eager to move north. He said that Wisconsin has been one of his favorites since his freshman year in high school.

"I was looking at a whole bunch of stuff on the internet, and I knew I wanted to play out of Florida," he said.

Leonard is being recruited by Wisconsin defensive line coach Randall McCray.

"I like Coach McCray," Leonard said. "He seems like a good coach up there."

Leonard has been discussing the possibility of a recruiting trip to Wisconsin, either an unofficial visit this summer or an official visit in the fall.

"(McCray) told me something about it, but I don't really know all the information… They didn't tell me like when, or nothing like that," Leonard said. "I would like to (visit) because I am really looking at that school" and Wisconsin has shown the most interest in him so far.

Leonard is not the biggest wide receiver prospect around, but he has big-play potential. He caught 22 passes last season for 576 yards and six touchdowns. That is an astounding 26.2 yards per catch, and a touchdown every 3.7 catches.

Said Leonard: "I can get open. And I love to beat people deep. That's one of my specialties. I love beating people deep."

Leonard was a starting cornerback (45 tackles, 3 interceptions), punt returner and kick returner as a sophomore in 2004. He played wide receiver sparingly that season, but converted to the position after a quarterback/wide receiver camp last summer at Middle Georgia College in Cochran, Ga.

"You go against the best of Georgia up there," Leonard said. "It's fun."

This fall, in his third year on varsity, Leonard expects to start at both cornerback and wide receiver.

In addition to football, Leonard competes as a guard on the Deland basketball team and a sprinter and jumper on the track and field squad. His best time in the100-meter dash this season is 10.9 seconds. He will run the first leg of the 400 relay for Deland in the upcoming state championship meet.

Academically, Leonard reported a 2.9 grade-point average and a 790 on the SAT.

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