At the end of my breakdown of the Matthew Langlois commitment I mentioned that Andrew Leingang, a 6’5, 270 pound offensive lineman out of Bismarck, North Dakota, is at the top of K-State’s class of 2021 wish list. With the fate of fall football settled for the moment, I thought this would be a good time to dip back into the 2021 recruiting class and tell you a little about Mr. Leingang.
What He Brings to the Table
I’m not going to lie, I’m not the best at breaking down offensive linemen. I can see size, strength and athleticism, which Andrew has in spades, but technique isn’t my area of expertise.
Two of the main things I look for in high school linemen is their ability to dominate the opposition and move their feet.
Leingang is nasty in the run game. He’s asked to do a little of everything, and he looks good doing it all. He shows natural athleticism when asked to pull and does a good job of getting where he’s supposed to go and finishing off his guy when he gets there. Being able to pull is one thing, but pulling and being disciplined and athletic enough to find and finish off a moving target is a high level skill. This skill in particular makes him a perfect fit for the Messingham offense that relies on athletic linemen that can pull, instead of straight ahead, zone blocking, road graders.
Don’t get me wrong though, he can road grade when it’s needed. When he’s asked to block down on defensive tackles, he doesn’t just seal them, he puts on the ground. Sometimes you see tall high school linemen play straight up and down, using their upper body and sheer size to block. Leingang does a great job of dropping his rear and and using his lower body to generate power. He looks like he takes his time on the blocking sled seriously.
Finally, he looks comfortable in space as a pass protector. He gets out of his stance with ease and has no trouble mirroring smaller, quicker ends. This ability is why the recruiting services can’t figure out if he is a guard (Rivals), center (247) or a tackle (247). Someone with his length and athleticism can play any of the five offensive line positions, depending on how he looks when he hits his ideal college playing weight. Versatile linemen are a sought after commodity in the recruiting world.
Don’t take my word for it though. Sometimes the best way to gauge a high school offensive lineman is to look at who is interested in procuring his services. Kansas State, offered him on May 5th, making the Wildcats his first Power 5 offer, but not his last. Since his offer on May 5th, Arizona State, Minnesota, Stanford, and Arizona have all extended offers.
College football recruiting is a “follow the leader” business, and if I had to pick one program to trust in terms of offensive linemen evaluation, it would be Kansas State. It’s not unusual to see an “under the radar” offensive lineman’s recruiting blow up once the Wildcats offer. It’s hard to blame other programs when a guy like Dillon Radunz, and unranked offensive tackle coming out of high school is poised to be North Dakota State’s next offensive lineman drafted into the NFL in 2021, with the potential to be a Day 1 or 2 pick. The K-State coaching staff knows how to evaluate talent, and once they get their hands on the talent, they know how to maximize it.
Why Kansas State?
Earning Andrew’s commitment isn’t going to be easy. He has plenty of good options. Minnesota is coming off an 11-win season. Stanford is an elite academic institution known for its smashmouth style. Arizona State looks to be on the come-up with Herm Edwards at the controls and Arizona is quietly putting together an excellent haul in 2021. Luckily, K-State has plenty to sell an offensive line prospect.
First and foremost, Coach Riley is a budding star in the coaching profession. His track record at North Dakota State speaks for its self. He led the offensive line in Fargo from 2014-2018 and produced the “Top Offensive Lineman” in the FCS in each of those years, including FCS Rimington Award Winner (best center in FCS) Tanner Volson. In all, Riley helped mold seven FCS All-Americans. Joe Haeg, a two time FCS All-American under Riley started out as a walk-on at North Dakota and ended up as a 5th round draft pick in the NFL. Haeg signed a 1 year, 2.3 million dollar free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this off-season, not bad for a guy that came to Fargo as a 6’6, 235 pound walk-on with no FBS offers.
Last season Coach Riley showed the Big 12 that his reputations as one of the best position coaches in the FCS was well earned, and that moving up a level changed nothing. The Wildcats finished fourth in the Big12 in rushing yards per game even with lead backs James Gilbert and Jordon Brown fighting through injuries most of the year. When Gilbert and Brown were both right, like they were against Oklahoma, the run game was pure devastation. James Gilbert ran for 105 yards and a touchdown, and averaged a robust 8.1 yards per carry against the Sooners. Jordon Brown chipped in 63 yards at a 5.3 yard per carry clip. When the ball was close to the goal line, the interior of the K-State line dominated, allowing Skylar Thompson to push the ball across the goal line four times. Throw in a four yard Josh Youngblood scamper, and the Wildcats put up six touchdowns in the upset of the Big 12 Champion Sooners. The only other team to knock off Oklahoma in 2019 was National Champion LSU in the CFP semi-final.
In terms of individual awards, Josh Rivas transitioned from a useful option off the bench for Kansas State in 2018 to a Second Team All-Big 12 AP selection in 2019 under Coach Riley’s tutelage. Pro Football Focus put Rivas on their First Team 2019 All-Big 12 Team and consider Rivas the best returning interior lineman in 2020. Not too bad for a former 3-star offensive tackle prospect.
I know it looks like I’m laying it on thick when it comes to Coach Riley, but Kansas State has one of the true up and coming coaching in college football. Plus my uncle is a former offensive line coach for the Wildcats, making me partial to the vastly underrated job of turning five guys into a cohesive unit. When an offensive line clicks, its like watching an intricate dance of violence, and the Wildcats were dancing last year.
I’ve spent a few hundred words talking about Coach Riley, but I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time talking about Coach Klieman and Coach Messingham. Plenty of coaches talk about establishing the run game, but Klieman and Messingham mean business. I particularly enjoy coach Messingham’s diverse run scheme. Zone blocking is in vogue, and the Wildcats use some zone blocking, but Messingham adds in an impressive array of pulling guards, tackles, and centers. If you’re a mobile lineman, it’s got to be an incredibly fun offense because you get to come around the corner and tee off on linebackers. I love it when offensive linemen get to hit instead of spending the game getting hit by the defense. I lived with an All-ACC Offensive guard in college, and I remember him coming back home after a frustrating game and saying “I don’t even know why I lift. All I do is stand up and get punched in the face 60 times a game.”
That’s not a problem in the Messingham offense.
Kansas State Chances
It’s always tough to read the tea leaves with recruiting but the Wildcats have a few key things going for them in the race for Leingang. I mentioned most of them above, but the combination of the coaching staff’s strengths and being the first Power 5 staff should be two huge check marks on the pro side of the equation.
Throw in the fact that the Wildcats are the only Power 5 team that has offered Andrew to be suiting up in the fall and I like Kansas State’s chances.
It doesn’t mean much, but I’d rather be Kansas State than any other team if I had my heart set on landing Leingang. I have faith that this staff will close hard. They won’t get outworked.
There are a few more guys I have my eye on in the 2021 class, so be on the look out for a few more of these profiles. In the meantime, y’all stay safe and get ready for some football in 2020.