Aston Villa have offered a new three-year contract to centre-back Liam Ridgewell, who is set to put pen to paper early next week.
The England Under-21 player is on the verge of committing himself to Villa until the end of the 2008/09 campaign.
Ridgewell, 21, played the majority of last season after Denmark international Martin Laursen suffered a knee injury in August which kept him out for the remainder of the campaign.
It was a testing campaign for Ridgewell and in one nightmare spell before Christmas he conceded four penalties in the space of five games.
But he earned praise from O'Leary for his strength of character and at times was Villa's only fit centre-back with skipper Olof Mellberg and Mark Delaney also side-lined.
O'Leary said: 'Liam is still learning his trade and last season won't have done him any harm. He's shown a willingness to learn and at times played extremely well for us.
'You get ups and downs with young players and that's been the case with Liam. But I've always said I'll give young players a chance and Liam's got the chance over the next few years to make a name for himself here.'
Villa are now stepping up their attempts to persuade another promising defender, Gary Cahill, to put pen to paper on a new deal.
Cahill asked for talks to be put on ice until the summer after forcing his way into the Villa starting line-up because of their lengthy list of injured defenders.
He spent a successful spell on loan at Burnley in 2004/05 when he was voted Player Of The Year and is another product of Villa's youth system.