MORGANTOWN - Anthony Leonard, who has been starting at middle lineback in place of injured Pat Lazear, is performing so well for West Virginia 's nationally ranked football teamthat it may be different to bench him when Lazear returns.
Going into Saturday night's late game at twelfth-ranked LSU, Leonard was the Mountaineers' leading tackler with 23, including nine unassisted stops. He also had forced a fumble.
"I'm gratified the way I played in our first three games, but I'm certainly not satisfied," said the 6-foot-1, 244-pound redshirt senior from McKeesport , Pa. "I still have a lot of work to do.
"I'm going to keep working hard. I can play better: Getting to the ball quicker and cleaning up some of my mistakes."
Like other linebackers, Leonard has learned to play all three positions. Jeff Casteel, defensive coordinator, insists on that as the linebacker coach.
"An LB is like the quarterback of the defense," Leonard explained. "Each guy knows what the other guys are doing. You've got to know your position and also everybody else's position on defense."
That's not difficult for Leonard. He played fullback as well as lineback at McKeesport High School .
"I liked playing fullback because I got to run a lot with the ball," he said. "Do I miss offense? No, not really. I just like playing football. Period."
He is a member of the Athletic Director's Academic Honor Roll. "I try to be a really good student," Leonard admitted. "And I try to be a pleasant guy, too (as an academic tutor had noted)."
Leonard will graduate in December with a bachelor's degree in athletic coaching education. Obviously, he wants to make a career in coaching at some level.
He is hopeful that Lazear will be able to see action soon. "Pat brings a lot to the table, too," Leonard said.
"We'll do even better when he comes back (from a leg injury). We'll have that much more experience on the field."
He expects to move and do whatever he's asked when Lazear does come back.
Leonard was a defensive standout in each of WVU's first three games.
Against Maryland , he had eight tackles, including four solos and two tackles for lost yardage. He had nine tackles in the victory at Marshall .
In the season's opener versus Coastal Carolina, he logged six stops, including three unassisted.
For 33 games, Leonard's career totals were 42 solo tackles, 72 assisted stops.