Florida State junior Rick Leonard has been a subject of much speculation in the early portion of the Seminoles' spring practice. With seven practices in the books, the feedback on Leonard's performance has been incredibly positive from both his coaches and his teammates.
"Ricky's gonna be a really good player," Jimbo Fisher recently said after a practice. "He's an athletic, big body there. He can help us."
Fellow offensive lineman Rod Johnson backed up what Fisher said, adding "He's an aggressive player, very coachable. He's his own toughest critic. He's a sponge, always absorbing new things."
Leonard played limited time in every one of Florida State's games last year as a defensive end and special teams member, shining most brightly in the Chattanooga game that saw him register a career-high four tackles and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl when he racked up only one tackle-for-loss but left a significant impact beyond the box score, getting into the backfield on multiple occasions and causing a disruption.
Still, Leonard had not broken into the regular defensive end rotation after two years and, with many significant contributors from 2015's defensive front returning and the addition of highly-touted recruit Brian Burns, it was a major unknown whether his impact on defense would grow in 2016. This, along with Fisher believing that his long-term potential sits on the offensive line, prompted Leonard's change.
"I think he could [play right tackle] for a long time, I really do," Fisher shared in his opening press conference of spring practice.
Less than two weeks into spring practice, Leonard has seen reps both at right tackle and center, working behind Brock Ruble at tackle and taking occasional reps after Alec Eberle and Corey Martinez at center. Fisher believes though that his future lies at right tackle, citing that he is "a big guy and can move around," both of which are necessities to play at one of the exterior o-line positions.
Early in his time after flipping to the offensive side of the ball, Leonard is impressing even his former defensive compatriots, with defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi saying, "I'm really impressed with how he's doing. To go from defensive line to offensive line, he's doing a great job."
The Seminoles' offensive line remains a potential issue at the midway point of spring practice but with Leonard's early progress, he seems well on his way to establishing himself as a viable option on the line before the season begins in September.