I follow recruiting with a modest interest so its safe to say that my first impression of Ashton Leggett was the rivals profile which lists him as a 5'11 225 pound RB rated 3 stars. The next stereotypical thing to do would be to look at his offers which included a bunch of MAC schools and MSU.
According to a September 2nd 2009 column by Terry Foster: "Ashton had a magical Senior season rushing for a school-record 2,013 yards and 32 Touchdowns." Muskegon is a good football program and I don't care who you play against 32 Touchdowns is a lot.
Ashton arrived on campus and was redshirted his freshman year which seems to be the norm according to Mark Dantonio.
2008 is where it gets interesting for me. Early in the season it was pretty clear that we were going to rush Ringer whenever possible but every once in awhile we would give him a breather allowing somebody to step up in his absence. Andre Anderson seemed to be the first option but after barely gaining any yardage in multiple games his fate was sealed with one play
|2nd and 3 at MICH 27||Andre Anderson rush for 1 yard, fumbled, recovered by Mich Terrance Taylor at the Mich 26|
If you remember in that game we were basically rushing Ringer to death and we wanted to give him one breather and this is what happened.
Jimmerson and Legett were given a chance in mop up duty against EMU but this always sticks out to me from that game.
1st and Goal at EMU 4
|Ashton Leggett rush for 4 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.||7||41|
yes it was already 41-7 and it was against EMU but we actually decided to let one of our backups come in and build some confidence with a goal-line TD run. Did we leave Ringer in too long? Probably, but we were set on actually padding his TD totals after letting Caulcrick run it in from pretty much every goal-line situation.
Unfortunately for Leggett he had his own "Anderson" moment in the Purdue game at a crucial time. Like Anderson, we were trying to give Ringer a break and he had his one moment to shine and this happened...
|3rd and 2 at PUR 18||Ashton Leggett rush for a loss of 6 yards, fumbled, recovered by Prdue at the Prdue 22.|
That was the last time we would see Leggett that season because Winston started receiving more carries and Dantonio went all pass happy down 42-7 in the 3rd quarter to PSU en route to a blowout 49-18 loss @ PSU.
In hindsight it is easy to criticize Dantonio but leaving Ringer in for pretty much the whole EMU game and letting him pad his stats with 5 TDs might have been the wrong thing to do. We didn't develop any confidence or ability in our backups by letting them get valuable game experience. You could also argue that we could've used the backups a little more when we started to pull away in the Indiana game.
Heading into 2009 this is what we get from Joe Rexrode's Blog April 16th 2009
A nugget of news from before today's MSU practice: Mark Dantonio says sophomore Ashton Leggett is distinguishing himself in the four-way spring battle at running back.
"He’s separated himself a little bit," Dantonio said of Leggett, who is competing with Andre Anderson, A.J. Jimmerson and Caulton Ray, with freshmen Edwin Baker and Larry Caper set to join the mix in the fall.
Leggett is the biggest of the backs at 237 pounds, and Dantonio said his ability to break from initial contact has been the difference.
"At some point in time as a running back you’ve got to be able to break tackles," Dantonio said. "Ashton has shown that."
Dantonio also said it's stilll a close race overall. But Leggett is the first guy to emerge.
So after Spring Ball we have Leggett bigger and stronger and up to around 237 pounds and supposedly breaking from initial contact and shedding tackles. This seems to me to be something we are looking for in a red-zone back. So sometime during preseason practices Caper and Ray emerge as well as Winston and Edwin Baker. This is pretty much confirmed in the opening win vs. Montana State with Ray getting 12 carries Caper Baker 8 carries and Caper 7 carries. Ashton is left with one carry for 0 yards.
Even after Caper emerged as the best MSU RB this from Eric Lacy's Big 10 Blog on October 17th 2009
"We’ve had a good week of practice. Whether it’s Caulton Ray, Andre Anderson or Edwin Baker, one of those three guys will probably emerge as the other guy with Larry Caper. Ashton Leggett possibly, he had a good day of practice today as well. We’d like to keep the redshirt on Edwin Baker… don’t know if we can, but we’ll see how it goes." - October 15th 2009 Shannon Shelton FREEP Blog
Baker said coach Mark Dantonio told him Thursday he wanted him to play, after coaches gave the other running backs a close look in practice - October 17th 2009 Eric Lacy DETNEWS Big 10 Blog
The biggest thing that strikes me about that last quote is that supposedly the other RBs were given a chance to step up but nobody did besides Baker. Now that Ray and Anderson are gone and Winston injured it only seems logical to give Ashton a chance. I believe there were some rumors of a Leggett transfer from Hondo or some other internet site so I say we give him a shot especially in goal-line situations.
I'm sorry this entry is a little scatter-brained and all over the board but hopefully somebody else can pickup and run with this idea or do a little more research.