Charles Leno Jr. following in the footsteps of three left tackles now in NFL

ccripe@idahostatesman.comSeptember 26, 2013 


    Four players have started all but 15 games at left tackle for the Boise State football team in the past 12 seasons. The part-timers were Matt Slater (eight starts in 2008-09) and Andrew Woodruff (seven starts in 2008). Here’s a look at the four fixtures:

    Daryn Colledge (2002-05): Started every game for four years, 52 in a row. All-WAC first team in 2004-05. Second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers. Eight-year NFL starter now with the Arizona Cardinals.

    Ryan Clady (2006-07): Started all 26 games at left tackle after a season at right tackle and left early for the NFL. All-WAC first team in 2006-07. First-round pick of the Denver Broncos. Six-year NFL starter and three-time Pro Bowl invitee who is out for the rest of this season with a foot injury.

    Nate Potter (2008-11): Injuries prevented him from becoming the full-time left tackle until the sixth game of his sophomore season, in 2009. He started three games at left tackle and five at right tackle in 2008. Ended his career with 35 straight starts and 38 total at left tackle. All-WAC first team in 2009-10 and All-Mountain West in 2011. Seventh-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he has started six games.

    Charles Leno Jr. (2012-13): Like Clady, he served an apprenticeship at right tackle for a season. He has started the past 17 games at left tackle and 30 consecutive games overall. All-Mountain West second team last year.

When you play left tackle for the Boise State football team, the most imposing video study might be of your predecessors.

The past three full-time starters at left tackle are in the NFL.

Senior Charles Leno Jr. — the latest occupant of one of the Broncos’ glamour positions — has watched them all.

“You just want to be better than those guys and keep it going, never leave it the same, never be mediocre at the position,” Leno said.

And if he can’t top them — Ryan Clady is one of the NFL’s elite tackles, after all — it won’t be for lack of effort.

“If I don’t get there,” Leno said, “I hope they understand I did the best I possibly can.”

Leno’s predecessors include Daryn Colledge, Clady and Nate Potter. Those three combined for 116 starts at left tackle and seven all-conference first-team awards.

Leno, the right tackle in 2011 and left tackle since the start of 2012, has watched Clady closely on video and considers Potter, his teammate for three years, a mentor.

“(Leno) is very solid — and I don’t use that word lightly,” coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s done a very nice job. For us, he’s been as good as any of those guys, really, in terms of productivity.”

Leno also has excelled in his leadership role.

He has started 30 straight games — six more career starts than any other current Bronco — maintains an upbeat attitude and stays on the right path off the field, where he is two online classes from his degree in criminal justice.

The Broncos name captains on a weekly basis. Leno was recognized last week.

“And really, deservedly so,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “He’s been much more vocal, in a good way. He’s always been one of those guys who his actions have been good leadership for the young guys. To me, to be a great leader, you’ve got to be vocal. … And he really has taken (sophomore right tackle Rees Odhiambo) under his wings and (freshman backup left tackle Steven Baggett) under his wings. That’s what leaders do.”

Odhiambo, who was Leno’s backup last year, and Baggett are the favorites to replace him next year and inherit the left tackle legacy.

“I’m almost done,” said Leno, who is from Oakland, Calif. “It’s just something I’m embracing right now, the leadership role. … I’m trying to help out everybody and just make sure the culture here stays the same — work hard every day, do the right things every day.”

Leno leads with his actions off the field — if he messes up, he says, his teammates might not respect his words — and with his energy on the field.

He’s a personable guy with an infectious attitude.

“He’s always in a good mood. He really is,” senior wide receiver Kirby Moore said. “We can be in the huddle, 100 degrees out at practice, and he’s smiling and making you laugh. That always picks you up.”

Said senior left guard Spencer Gerke, who plays right next to Leno: “Charles is awesome because you can trust him with anything. You can put anyone in front of him and you know he’s going to compete his butt off. A goal we both had this year was just to have fun — cut it loose and enjoy it.”

Leno’s tools include a tall, lean frame (6-foot-4, 295 pounds), long arms, impressive power (565-pound squat), outstanding athleticism, football smarts and fierce competitiveness.

He is on course to join his predecessors with his first all-conference, first-team award. He also could join them in the NFL, before his planned career as a probation officer.

He has improved this year by attacking his technique.

“Fundamentally, he’s taken some really good strides, which a lot of times is hard going into your senior season,” Strausser said. “… He’s been much more consistent this year.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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