LEYMAN'S ARRIVAL COULD SPELL SUCCESS FOR WOODSTOWN FOOTBALL
Don't try to pin Austin Leyman down to committing to what position he plays at Woodstown. He won't budge. He'll tell you simply...he is a football player.
Leyman transferred mid season in 2020 from St. Augustine Prep, sat out the 30 days required and actually played in the Wolverines 14-10 loss to Salem on Thanksgiving Day.
“I think I'll play all over,” Leyman said in a recent phone interview with Footballstories. “I could play quarterback, tight end, wide receiver, strong safety, outside linebacker or defensive end. I'll play wherever they need me.”
That is as versatile as it gets for a football player.
According to Woodstown head coach John Adams, Leyman pretty much did that on Thanksgiving.
“Defensively, on Thanksgiving Day last year Austin played safety, defensive and outside linebacker for us,” Adams said in a recent phone interview. “It depended what offense the other team was in. These were all checks that Austin had to know and be able to roll into. His athleticism allowed him to do that.”
Leyman played several positions on offense that first game as well. He was asked how it would work at the quarterback position...there's only one.
“I'm not sure yet,” the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder said. “We'll figure that out once we get into the summer. They had a freshman quarterback last year who did really well. So we'll see once we get into the summer.”
Obviously Leyman is a talented football player. But you don't just up and leave a program in mid season – although a highly unusual season for every sports team in America due to the pandemic – without people asking why, especially since he was a junior at the time.
Leyman said he understood that people would ask. He offered this explanation when asked why he left the Hermits football team.
“There was just some stuff that happened at the Prep and I thought it was time for me to open a new door,” Leyman said. “I still have a lot of love for all the coaches there and everything they did for me. But I'm definitely excited to be back in Woodstown. That's my hometown. I'm definitely excited for this, my last year with them.”
Leyman was asked how difficult it was dealing with all the COVID-19 restrictions and the limited schedule that included no playoffs.
“I think it's definitely hurt recruiting not being able to go out to colleges,” Leyman said. “Just to get in front of them. I still have yet to go to a college camp. It's hard because last year COVID hit right before I would have started going to camps. Obviously they haven't opened their doors since. So I feel like it has definitely affected my recruiting, but I'm still getting through and hopefully whatever school gives me an opportunity to come play, I make sure they don't regret that.”
Leyman talked about getting back with his Woodstown teammates for offseason training. The Wolverines football team is allowed to get together to lift weights at the school.
“We're lifting as a team in the weight room,” Leyman said. “We do some speed and agility work. I'm also doing a lot on my own, perfecting my craft in the 40 (yard dash) and agility drills. Just so that when I do get the opportunity to go to a camp, I can have everything perfected and give my best times to the coaches.”
Woodstown was 4-4 in 2020. Because of COVID-19, there were no playoffs in New Jersey. Leyman says the Wolverines want to make some noise this year. .
“I'm really looking forward to this season,” Leyman said. “We were really young last year. I think we're going to shock a lot of people this year.”
Leyman is coming back to Woodstown as a senior with only one year of eligibility. How does he navigate developing chemistry and take a leadership role with his younger teammates?
“I've grown up with a lot of these kids,” Leyman said. “I've played with them all the way through. Some of them I've helped coach and help become the best version of themselves. They're all like family to me. We were all raised together playing football together as youths. I am a new face in some ways, but I'm really not. We were all still close when I decided to go to the Prep. So I think I'll be able to step into the leadership role pretty easily.”
Leyman was asked to name some of the players he believes coach Adams will lean on this fall.
Those players include senior Matt Telsey (6-1, 255), a two-way lineman and three-year starter; sophomore running back/safety Diante Hill (6-1, 170); senior Damian Chiesa QB/SS (5-10, 170); senior CB Jordan Carey (5-10, 172); sophomore Max Webb QB.SS (5-11, 155); sophomore James Hill Jr QB/RB (6-0, 170) and junior Shawn Gerrity DT/G (6-2, 245).
“It's triple option, spread triple option,” said Leyman, describing the Woodstown offense. “The quarterback runs the ball a lot. Hopefully we'll throw some too. But I guess we'll have to wait and see.”
Adams seems thrilled to have Leyman on his roster, even if it's for just one season.
“The best way I heard someone describe him was he's a Swiss Army knife,” Adams said. “I always said 'Jack of All Trades' to the other coaches about Leyman. But I like Swiss Army knife a lot .”
What position will he play? How will he integrate Leyman with his returning players? Adams is hoping he gets a chance to get a real look at all his players this offseason.
“We hope we have our normal spring training camp, then summer workouts then summer camp which we missed out on last year.”
Adams went on to talk about Leyman and the options he gives him as a coach.
“Offensively we're going to start him out at quarterback,” Adams said. “He'll be competing with all the other quarterbacks. But we also are not blinded by the fact that he is athletic and we can match him up anywhere on the field.”
“We also had a freshman quarterback last year who did pretty well,” said Adams, referring to Webb “There could be some dynamic concepts with our play calling next year, that's out of our normal realm. So we can use both of them as guys back there and take advantage fully of both their athleticism. Either way, they both will have to be on the field offensively and defensively for us. They're both really good players.”
Adams said he has seen no problems with bringing a good player for just one season.
“You can tell all the guys he played with growing up with are excited to have him back at Woodstown.” Adams said. “He stepped right into the offseason here working hard in the weight room, everybody cheering everybody on and everybody's cheering him on. It seems like a seamless transition back to Woodstown.”
There is no doubt things will be interesting this fall on the football field in Woodstown, New Jersey. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii
Note: Some information from highschoolsports.nj.com.