Position: Interior offensive line
Weight: 320 lbs
College: Southern Methodist University
Drafted: Third Round, 71st overall pick
The upcoming season is perhaps the most important of Josh LeRibeus’s young career. It is both the final year of his rookie contract and possibly the last opportunity he has to fulfill the expectations that accompany a third round selection. LeRibeus is confident heading into training camp this year after a more focused offseason than in years past.
"I know what the deal is and I know what I’ve gotta do. I’m looking forward to it," LeRibeus said. "Not necessarily the 3 o’clock in the afternoon practices, but everything else I’m looking forward to."
#1 LeRibeus appeared in five games during his rookie year, including a solid showing in the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks after Kory Lichtensteiger suffered an early injury. LeRibeus unfortunately struggled with motivation during his first professional offseason, favoring late-night Mexican food to early morning workouts, and arrived in camp the next year 30 pounds overweight. His second season was spent getting in shape and working through injuries that resulted from his initial lack of conditioning.
#2 LeRibeus is coming into camp after possibly the best, most focused offseason of his professional career. He was diagnosed in February 2014 with ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes swelling and ulcers to form in the digestive tract. It’s akin to Crohn’s disease — Crohn’s affects the lining of the digestive tract — which nearly ended the careers of NFL players such as journeyman quarterback David Garrard and longtime New England Patriot tackle Matt Light. LeRibeus worked over the offseason to manage the symptoms of the disease, as there is no known cure, but then, about three games into last season, he started to suffer from a stomach infection.
"It took the doctors forever to figure out what the hell was going on," LeRibeus said over the phone. "From beginning to the end of the season, I lost 25 pounds. It was rough… but it’s gotten a lot better. Clearly, I’m back to 320."
#3 In addition to getting his diet honed in, LeRibeus spent the offseason working on items listed on a piece of paper by new offensive line coach Bill Callahan. One of those bullet points was to improve hand-eye coordination through mixed martial arts training. When working out at the team facility, LeRibeus said the offensive line spent time working with the team’s new strength coach and taekwondo grandmaster, Joe Kim.
"I’ve never even thought to do that," LeRibeus said. "I feel like it helps a lot. I don’t know if it did, but I felt like it did, so I’ll take that."
#4 Scot McCloughan famously said before the draft that he wants "big, tough, nasty, strong guys" on the offensive line (famous at least among superfans who have long pined for an improved offensive line). Well, let’s all take a moment to recall that after the 2012 draft, none other than his own mother, speaking with Hogs Haven, described LeRibeus as "the evil spawn child from hell" who has been "mean and nasty all his life," as evidenced by the time a three-year-old LeRibeus once took a dart and stabbed a carnie through the hand. He’s also set to enter camp at 320 pounds, coincidentally the exact weight pinpointed by McCloughan as his preferred size for an offensive lineman.
#5 LeRibeus spent the each practice at OTAs at center. The ability to play multiple positions generally helps your chances of earning a roster spot. Lichtensteiger is the entrenched starter at center, but the team lost its only backup center when Chris Chester was released in June. If LeRibeus can establish himself as a capable center as well as backup guard, he will have a good chance at not only making the 53-man roster, but also the 46-man game day roster.
Bottom Line: Expect LeRibeus to make the roster as backup guard and center. Given a successful offseason and Callahan’s impressive track record of grooming talent, LeRibeus ought to be able to plug in seamlessly if need be.