Ready to contribute

Leon LaDeaux hasn’t played a down with the Minot State University football team, but he already wants his teammates to view him as a leader.

The transfer wide receiver from Division II Central Washington arrived in time for spring practice and stayed in town this summer to study the Beavers’ playbook, run routes with quarterback Zac Cunha and prove his work ethic to his teammates.

The extra time is paying off, as the junior is in position to fill out a strong receiving corps that also features returning starters Wayne Peters and Porter Sturm.

“I wanna be a leader in the room even though I just kind of got here,” said LaDeaux, whose younger brother, Aaron, was the Beavers’ starting punter and kicker last season. “Staying through the summer has allowed me that opportunity to kind of get involved and lead the room. I wanna be a playmaker. I wanna be able to go across the middle and take the big hit and get back up and fire the guys up.”

Each receiver brings a unique skill set. Peters – a 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior – is the shiftiest of the bunch, capable of making tacklers miss and picking up extra yardage. Sturm, a 5-11 sophomore, is a crisp route runner with a knack for hauling in deep balls. Both players recorded 39 catches last season, with Sturm picking up 588 yards to Peters’ 531.

At 6-3, 215-pounds, LaDeaux will add a large, reliable target to the mix.

“Leon’s the big-bodied dude that can go across the middle, always with the for-sure hands,” Peters said. “Porter’s definitely the bomber. Zac is always lookin’ for Porter to bomb somebody.”

Said MSU coach Paul Rudolph: “I think we throw those guys out there and that’s a pretty formidable receiving corps. They’re all capable of making big plays and they’re all capable of making possession catches.”

LaDeaux said participating in spring practice and throwing with Cunha this summer allowed the two to establish timing on routes. They also live together on campus and the new receiver isn’t afraid to shout across the room if he has a playbook question.

“A lot of times we just head back to our rooms and we sit in there and talk about football for a couple of hours when we have time to kill,” Cunha said. “We just sit there and talk about football, things we can tweak and how we can get better. It’s kind of normal conversation in our house right now.”

Rudolph said the receivers are “miles ahead” of where they were during fall camp last season. The Beavers will miss big-play threat Glyn Borel, the team’s leading receiver in 2012 with 41 catches. MSU coach Paul Rudolph wouldn’t comment on why Borel – who has one season of eligibility left and is still enrolled at MSU – isn’t playing this year.

But Rudolph is confident LaDeaux can fill the void.

“I don’t feel like we’ve lost much,” he said. “We miss some straight-line speed, but Leon ain’t slow.”

Junior Nate Christianson, who caught 29 passes for 333 yards in 2011 before sitting out with a broken leg last year, has lined up with the first unit in some four-receiver sets in practice. Sophomore Josh Taylor will also challenge for playing time after returning from an injury, and redshirt freshman Chase Kimble is expected to add depth to the group.

Senior tight end Bobby Bartz – the starting heavyweight for the MSU wrestling team – is capable of throwing his 6-3, 275-pound frame around the line of scrimmage, too.

“Bob’s probably not the premier pass-catcher in the league by any means, but I don’t think that he’s gonna take a back seat as far as being physical,” Rudolph said. “He’s gonna give you what he’s supposed to give you in the blocking game. I don’t think he’s gonna be our leading receiver or anything like that, but at the same token, I don’t think you can leave him uncovered.”

LaDeaux said he is eager to contribute for a team that heavily involves its receivers. Central Washington was a pass-happy offense when he was recruited, but eventually transitioned to a run-heavy scheme, causing LaDeaux to look elsewhere.

Rudolph, for one, is glad LaDeaux found his way to MSU.

“He’s big, he’s tall and he’s pretty fast,” Rudolph said. “Pretty good hands. When you think of a premier Division II receiver, he’s got the body type.”

Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.

Editor’s note: This is part one of an eight-part series breaking down each unit of the Minot State University football team. Defensive backs will be featured in Wednesday’s paper.