South Carolina State
381 tackles (264 solos), 20 sacks, 6 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles
Every year I see a player at the Senior Bowl that I had no clue about and leave the game wanting to see more. This year Darius Leonard is that player. Leonard was not rated as a recruit coming out of high school. His brother played at Clemson and he camped at Clemson but the Tigers never offered him a scholarship. Leonard qualified late academically so he redshirted his freshman season in Spartanburg. He started right out of the gate as a redshirt Freshman with 86 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Leonard had over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons and had eight sacks this past season.
2016: Clemson, UCF
2017: Morgan State, NC Central, Senior Bowl
His star seems to shine brightest when the spotlight is on him. Against Clemson, Leonard had 19 tackles and blocked a field goal. His production numbers were tremendous. Leonard leaves South Carolina State with more tackles than anyone else in the program’s history. He has been durable in his four years, with no injury history to speak of. The best aspect of his game is his ability to cover. Leonard can carry a running back down the field on a wheel route or a tight end down the seam. Leonard does a nice job staying parallel to the line of scrimmage on stretch plays. He shows nice closing speed. Leonard was the captain of the defense and called the defensive signals on the field.
DFD COOKBOOK RECIPE
Darius Leonard was the best linebacker at the Senior Bowl thirty minutes into the first practice. He carries a chip on his shoulder because Clemson didn’t want him and that is a humongous motivational piece for him. Leonard has the coverage skills to be a three-down linebacker and will excel as a nickel LB early in his NFL career. His range and scheme versatility make him a Top 100 player for me right now.
DEEP FRIED DRAFT
Leonard has added 50 pounds since he graduated high school and I question whether he can sustain that kind of weight over the long haul. Leonard needs to do a better job of getting off blocks near the line of scrimmage. He sometimes gets caught taking the proverbial candy on misdirection plays.