Football Preview: Leonardis’ offensive versatility keeps defenses on their toes
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF
by Andrew Garda
Coaching offense for the Montclair High School football team is a blessing and a curse, albiet one offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pat Leonardis is grateful to have to deal with.
There’s so much talent that managing the distrubtion of the football to all of it can be a balancing act and one where not everyone will always be pleased.
“It’s a hard line, you can’t make everybody happy,” Leonardis said. “There are games where certain receivers are going to have four, five, six catches and the next game they might have zero.”
It’s a problem because each player is still, essentially, a kid and it can be hard to deal with not being involved at all, even when your team is successful. It’s also a blessing, because it means you have a deeply talented team on offense, which the Mounties do.
However, while Leonardis can’t get the ball to everyone all the time he has a team which buys into the idea that their time will come and their coaches are putting them into the best situation to succeed that they can. It creates selfless players, and guys who will put aside their own glory for the greater good.
To provide an example, Leonardis talks about former tight end Cameron Lipton-Martinez, now playing at Columbia University.
“There were two or three games where he didn’t even step on the field because we didn’t need his type of package personel. And he understood that.”
That buy-in is something the current team has shown as well, from Danny Webb—who Leonardis calls “one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever been around”—to Charles Murphy, now moving to receiver full time, to Collin Callahan, who put in time on special teams and will get a look on offense this season.
“I knew last year [Callahan] was going to be a playmaker for us,” Leonardis explains. “The problem is we had so many guys who were maybe one step faster [than him]. But he’s usually the first one out [on the field] and the last one to leave, he’s running routes with [Earle]. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and I think he’s going to have a breakout year for us.”
Leonardis says the reality is, guys have to pay their dues to get their turn, and just like Callahan, when they do it will pay off.
But also like Callahan, they have to put in the effort. They can’t just sit back and wish they were on the field—they need to ask questions, and pay attention when Leonardis and other coaches are instructing a teammate. That’s how Callahan, or any other player, puts themselves in a position to succeed.
And Leonardis wants to have more kids like that. The more talent he has at his disposal, the more versatility, and the more versatility the Mounties have, the harder they are to stop. You can do things like put Webb in the slot, but hand the ball off to Josh Crawford, or have Earle pull down the ball and run. You can throw to Crawford or Callahan out of the slot, and then go long to Tysean Williams down the sideline.
And when a defense adjusts to all that, Leonardis and head coach John Fiore can mix up where their receivers line up, since this offseason they focused on learning all the receiver positions.
“You’ve got to be able to keep defenses on their toes,” Leonardis said. “You can’t let them be comfortable. If a team likes playing their 4-3, Cover 2, you’ve got to find a way to get them out of it.That’s what our job is as coaches and I think we do a pretty good job of trying to make defenses uncomfortable. Then...you have to stop Danny Webb, while being an uncomfortable defense? We’ll see what happens.”