The First Position Change of Spring

The first position change of spring is here, as it was officially announced that Rick Leonard will be moving to the offensive line. The junior has spent the past two seasons at defensive end as the primary backup for DeMarcus Walker. He played in all 13 games last season, only contributing five tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Leonard has great size at 6-7, 287 lbs., and many believed that he was primed for a breakout season as a pass rusher.

However, the move to offensive line paints a different picture. First and foremost, the defensive coaching staff must feel comfortable with the depth behind Walker at defensive end. Chris Casher, Adam Torres and Janarius Robinson are all players that could fill the rotation at that position. Secondly, the move to offensive line means that Rick Trickett and the offensive coaching staff must not feel comfortable with the play and depth of the line moving forward. While the line has established starters at left tackle and left guard, the three other positions were anything but solid in 2015. Right tackle was a particularly sore spot as it saw three players rotate as starters throughout the year.

With both Derrick Kelly and Chad Mavety out for spring, it is possible that Leonard will compete for playing time at right tackle. Brock Ruble started six games last season at right tackle, including the bowl game versus Houston, but his play left much to be desired and it was clear that he still needed a year or two of development.

In the end, Jimbo Fisher is renown for his ability to successfully move players to different positions that will put them in a better position to succeed. Cam Erving came to Florida State as a defensive tackle, but moved to offensive line. He started at left tackle and center and was eventually a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns. Karlos Williams was a five-star recruit at safety, but moved to running back and is now firmly established as a feature back with the Buffalo Bills. Finally, Giorgio Newberry has bounced around at FSU, starting at defensive tackle and moving to tight end during FSU’s national championship season, but is in a great position to get drafted after having a successful senior season at defensive end.

Is it likely that Rick Leonard will be an immediate impact player on the offensive line? Probably not, but Fisher’s ability to recognize and diagnose position changes is second to none. Add in a great position coach in Rick Trickett and it is possible that Rick Leonard could turn into a draftable player at either tackle or guard.

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