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Leggett works his way back from injuries

By Doug Smock, Staff writer
Leggett

HUNTINGTON — Ah, yes, the dreaded high ankle sprain. The bigger, badder brother of the “conventional” ankle sprain, and the robber of football seasons everywhere.

A.J. Leggett fulfilled his quota of that injury, or so he hopes, in his freshman season of 2013 at Marshall. In the Thundering Herd’s home win against Southern Mississippi, cornerback Darryl Roberts inadvertently rolled on Leggett’s ankle, causing the sprain.

Leggett finished that game, recording six tackles and an interception. But as he said, “I felt it the next morning.”

And that was just about that. He was listed as playing in three of the five games through the Conference USA championship, but only showed statistics for one, a four-tackle effort against East Carolina.

After the Herd’s loss to Rice on Dec. 7, the team had 20 days until the Military Bowl against Maryland, and Leggett took full advantage.

He remained behind free safety Taj Letman and strong safety Tiquan Lang in the bowl game, but had three tackles and an interception, his team-high fourth of the 14-game season.

That pick pretty much ended the game in the Herd’s favor. Trying to cut into a 31-20 MU lead, Maryland’s C.J. Brown went deep, only to see Leggett snag the throw at the Herd 19-yard line with 2:58 left. The Terrapins managed one uneventful possession the rest of the way.

“A.J. made a decision prior to the bowl game to become a great player,” said Herd coach Doc Holliday. “He’s committed himself to be great, and you can tell that by the way he’s playing.”

Leggett missed much of his first offseason conditioning cycle with a shoulder injury, but was healthy over this summer and it shows on his 6-foot, 185-pound frame. He has built his confidence, fundamentals and everything else.

Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator and secondary coach, is pleased with the sophomore’s maturity, among other attributes.

“He’s got a good skill set. He’s got some skills of a corner,” Heater said. “So when you move him inside, that really improves your athleticism throw at the Herd 19-yard line with 2:58 left. The Terrapins managed one uneventful possession the rest of the way.

“A.J. made a decision prior to the bowl game to become a great player,” said Herd coach Doc Holliday. “He’s committed himself to be great, and you can tell that by the way he’s playing.”

Leggett missed much of his first offseason conditioning cycle with a shoulder injury, but was healthy over this summer and it shows on his 6-foot, 185-pound frame. He has built his confidence, fundamentals and everything else.

Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator and secondary coach, is pleased with the sophomore’s maturity, among other attributes.

“He’s got a good skill set. He’s got some skills of a corner,” Heater said. “So when you move him inside, that really improves your athleticism in terms of catching a ball, coverage ability.”

Leggett has retained the confidence befitting a four-star recruit. As much as he worked to ascend to the top of the depth chart at free safety, he’s knows it’s not the final destination.

“I don’t feel any type of way, because I’ve been working hard the entire offseason,” he said. “I’ve been buying into what the coaches tell us to do. So I feel like everything has pretty much panned out, but at this point you’ve got to keep working.

“I’m a little more comfortable out there than I was a year ago.”

Leggett has been working alongside Letman, who started last year alongside D.J. Hunter, then freshman Lang. Lang has been battling a groin pull and illness, so he hasn’t been able to do much this month.

With Hunter at linebacker and Corie Wilson sidelined in the first week of camp, true freshman Kendall Gant has been having a good camp — and needs it. He’ll make the bus and probably will see the field when the Herd opens its season Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio).

“We’re preparing as if,” Heater said. “We’d like to have five [on the trip], but we’ll be lucky to have four. We’ll be lucky to have four who can play and win for you.”

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Holliday pronounced Gunnar Holcombe the second-string quarterback Monday. Holcombe took most of the quarterback snaps in the intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, completing 11 of 22 for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

An official two-deep will not be named publicly until Aug. 26, the Tuesday of the first game week, but coaches have their ideas.

“It’s starting to sort itself out. We’re not giving reps to the ‘threes’ anymore,” Holliday said. “Some of the ‘threes’ become ‘twos,’ but for the most part, that’s sorted out.”

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As veteran as this Marshall team is in several areas, youth will be served with playing time. Holliday feels he has several freshmen ready, true and redshirted.

“I’m not sure I’ve had this many, to be honest,” Holliday said. “Even the first year, I had several, but there are probably six to eight who will play, and that’s true freshmen. That’s probably one of the higher numbers I’ve had since I’ve been here, but that’s a good thing because we’ve got more talented players coming in.”

Among the true freshman candidates, in purely numerical order: wide receivers Hyleck Foster, Emanuel Beal and Gator Green, Gant, cornerback Antavis Rowe, tight end Ryan Yurachek and possibly defensive lineman Tomell One.

Cole Garvin is the third-string quarterback, so he’ll definitely travel.

Reach Doug Smock at dougsmock@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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