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A closer look: Rutgers FB Brian Leonard

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Rutgers FB/RB Brian Leonard
Over the past few weeks, I've been adding entries in our "A Closer Look" series featuring interviews with bloggers and journalists from the schools of prospective Eagles draft picks. I've got a few lines in the water for some more, so expect some more good stuff as we start to get in full draft mode.

So far we've profiled Pitt CB Darrelle Revis, Ole Miss LB Patrick Willis, Penn State LB Paul Posluszny, and Texas Safety Michael Griffin.

I'd like to thank Dane Truxell, Associate Sports Editor for The Daily Targum, which covers all things Rutgers, for answering a few questions on RU Running Back Brian Leonard, who the Eagles have shown interest in and has shown up as a possible Eagles second or third round pick in some mock drafts.

BGN Now that Rutgers has had it's pro day, is there any buzz there about which NFL teams may be sniffing around Leonard?

The DT - There's been a bit of buzz, but as last years football season gets farther and farther away, buzz around football naturally dims. But, much of the information we get is the same information everyone else gets. The Giants, Eagles, I heard somewhere the Seahawks, there are multiple other teams that have reportedly shown interest in Leonard, but it's hard to pinpoint which are just sniffs, and which are real interests. Part of that is because he is so versatile and can play HB an RB and many people, including myself, are not 100% sure which position his future is at.

BGN Leonard was a fullback in college but has dedicated himself to becoming a tailback in the NFL. Has he ever expressed his reasoning behind the desire to switch? Also, why didn't he didn't play tailback at RU?

The DT - He hasn't ever explicitly stated his reasoning for changing his position, but it is sort of understood. Brian is so good with the ball in his hands, and he's the kind of player who wants the ball every play. He'll maximize the number of opportunities to get the ball if he goes from fullback to runningback. The money can't hurt either. Partly because it's a dying position, fullback isn't as highly valued in the draft, so if most teams saw him as a fullback, then he'll likely go somewhere around the third round. But as a halfback, his stock increases, and thus increasing the money he gets. There's a pretty significant difference in the amount of money he could potentially make as a HB and as a FB. Again, it's not all about money though, Leonard wants the ball every play, he's not going to have that opportunity at fullback.

BGN Is there a pro right now or in the past that you think compares favorably to Leonard?

The DT - It's hard to pinpoint exactly who he plays like, and really it also depends on what position you're looking at. As a fullback, he doesn't really compare to mike alstott, because, althought he can still improve at blocking, he is a better blocker than Alstott. Nor does he compare with a guy like Lorenzo Neal, because he's faster and a better runner than Neal, and not nearly as good at blocking. I've heard Leonard compare himself a little bit to Roger Craig. I'm not sure about his comparison at fullback, there aren't many fullbacks with his combination of size and athleticism.
As a halfback, I might compare him to a guy like Greg Jones, but his versatility also pushes me to compare him a bit to Chris Cooley.

The "versatility" Dane is referring to is that Leonard is considered one of, if not the best pass catching back in the draft... which is something we all know is very important in the Eagles offense.

BGN For quite a while Eagles fans have been clamoring for a "big back" that can move piles and grind out short yardage, and I think they'd be very happy to see Brian Leonard filling that role. Is there anything about Leonard that could indicate maybe he won't be a good pro? Is he a good guy?

The DT - &I'll answer the second part first. Brian Leonard is about as good a guy as you can get. He accepted a diminished role last season to Ray Rice with no complaints, and is always quick to praise teammates for their accomplishments. In terms of will he be a good pro, I think that depends on what kind of system he goes to, and how he is used. I really think he'll be the most successful in a West Coast Offense. I think if he went to a team like Oakland where the offensive line is dreadful wouldn't be good either. Philadelphia would be a great fit for Brian, but I'm not so sure that Philly thinks Brian is a great fit for them anymore with Thomas Tapeh at fullback and Correll Buckhalter resigning to a two-year contract. I could be wrong though.

BGN Finally, is there anything else about Brian you think we ought to know or may find interesting?

The DT - Brian Leonard has become the face of Rutgers football. I wrote an article several months ago after the Syracuse game featuring him since it was the last home game of his career at Rutgers. The article highlighted a moment after the game that truely was a touching moment, and the emobdyment of what Brian meant to Rutgers. The moment was when the real Knight mascot (there's a cartoonish one and there is one that wears real armor), gave Leonard his sword, and Leonard climbed to the top of the podium and led the band and everyone in alma mater, using the sword as a baton. I made the comparison that that moment showed that Brian wasn't just the face of Rutgers football, he was Rutgers football, he is what it now means to be a Scarlet Knight, and is what the players strive to achieve. Whoever drafts Brian will be getting a special player.

Huge thanks to Dane Truxell from The The Daily Targum for taking the time to help us out.

Anyone have any thoughts on Leonard? Eagles fans, visiting RU fans?