Friday, October 9, 2009

Leonard stepping up for Cowboys

Richard Anderson photo
Wyoming junior wide receiver David Leonard, 33, catches a pass this season against Texas.

By Richard Anderson

David Leonard will give you somewhat of an “ah-shucks” response. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels says the offensive scheme doesn’t really allow it.

But when Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen was asked earlier in the week if Leonard could be called the Cowboys’ go-to receiver, he finally relented and agreed.

“You can call David Leonard our go-to receiver,” Christensen said with a smile.

Leonard had a career-high 13 catches last Saturday for 97 yards in the Cowboys 30-28 win over Florida Atlantic University. For the season, Leonard now has 38 catches for 368 yards and one touchdown. He had 29 career catches in his first two seasons.

“I still don’t think I would call myself that (go-to receiver),” said Leonard, as the Cowboys prepared for Saturday’s homecoming contest with New Mexico (noon). “I think we have too much talent on this team that on any given day, anybody could have that big of a night. First-string, second-string, everyone who came in made a contribution. It was a team effort and that is what it took to win the game.”

Carta-Samuels kind of agrees without downplaying Leonard’s effort last week and during the season.

“I think in our scheme, unfortunately, we don’t have go-to players so much, it’s more like taking what they give you,” Carta-Samuels said. “David has done a great job of that. He has been an easy target for me. With his work ethic and the way he practices, I knew that was going to happen. It wasn’t a big surprise to me.”

There’s no denying, though, that when Carta-Samuels is on the scramble, one of his first looks is for Leonard.

“He’s 6-3 or 6-4, so he is bigger target than anybody else, but he gets open. He knows where to be on the field. He makes my job easier. I definitely look for No. 33,” Carta-Samuels said.

Leonard’s previous career high in receptions came in the season-opener against Weber State with seven. Although he went into the season with much higher expectations, he wasn’t expecting a 13-reception game.

“It’s very exciting getting that many passes thrown your way. Your feel proud knowing that you are helping out your team and that is the most important thing,” Leonard said.

Leonard credits the presence of Carta-Samuels, as well as the Wyoming coaching staff for getting himself and the rest of the team ready for the season, mentally and physically. He also said it is nice to have Carta-Samuels firmly entrenched at quarterback, with his ability to find the open receiver.

“If you see him running in the backfield, and if you get open, he’ll find you," Leonard said. "It is encouraging for a receiver to never quit on a play because it could be a game changer. We work on it every day in practice. He has great vision.”

Physically, Leonard also said that he is more prepared for the season, especially for the grinds of the fourth quarter. He said the new coaching staff brought in a program to develop players to increase speed and strength.

“It has worked tremendously,“ he said. “This off-season I felt like I really wanted to step up and be a big contributor for this team. Just doing a little extra work when you really don’t want to. Before you go to asleep, a few extra push-ups and sit-ups, anything that can give you an edge on an opponent.”

The Cowboys now feel that the fourth quarter is a time for them to excel. He said that they have become aware that they can’t be satisfied with ordinary; they can’t be satisfied with just doing the basics and the bare minimum.

“ We had to push ourselves to beyond limits that we didn’t know that we had. In these last two games that have been close, we ended up finishing in the fourth quarter, which is huge,” he said. “We’re a disciplined team,. We work on that everyday in practice. Coaches are always preaching. It is huge being disciplined, especially condition-wise. We’re doing all the things needed to finish up the games.”

While the Wyoming wide receivers have struggled at times this season, especially early, Leonard said that they are in a much more consistent groove, and they are beginning to understand what is going on. He added that it goes back to the hard work that they are putting in.

“We continue to do the same regiment after practice, continue to stay after and catch extra passes,” he said. “We’re focusing on the small things that makes us successful. It‘s kind of molding together and it is a good feeling.”

Now that the Cowboys have had two solid games back-to-back, it’s no time to stop improving.

“We’re going into conference play now and we have to let everything hang out,“ Leonard said. “It’s great to see the improvement that we have made, the steps that we have taken. Now that we are feeling pretty good, we have to continue to improve and not be satisfied with what we have done.”

Leonard borrows the old sports cliché of taking it one-game-at a-time and focus on the task in hand. Besides, he said that the Lobos will be hungry on Saturday and they have to match that hunger.
“We have a great opportunity to get a streak going," Leonard said, "especially because this is a conference game; this is another big step for us and a huge challenge. We’ll step up to the challenge.”

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