LB John Leake
6-1, 240, 4.43
Plano East High School
Leake Came to Clemson as a linebacker from Plano, Texas. He had 140 tackles and 10 sacks as a senior and was the first Clemson signee from Texas since 1991. He chose the Tigers over Oklahoma and Texas A&M. After a redshirting his freshman year, he saw significant action on special teams in 2000 before moving into the spotlight in 2001 by starting every single game. He's recorded over 130 tackles in each of the last two seasons and there's little doubt that he will be one of most important cogs in John Lovett's defense in 2003.
John Leake emerged as one of the leaders on defense last season with 169 total tackles. This season, he'll be depended on even more so after the losses of Rodney Thomas and Rodney Feaster. He's up to 240 pounds now, which is a full 20 pounds heavier than his playing weight last season. At the same time, he's kept his 4.43 speed in the forty.
Leake is excited about his senior year and the opportunities that lie ahead. "Your senior year, you want to go out with a bang," said Leake. "You want to win the ACC Championship, you want to win the National Championship, and those things should be within our reach. You look at some of the schools that haven't been ranked that high at the start of the year...teams like Ohio State from a year ago...no one expected them to win the National Title. It can be done."
NFL Draft Expert Tony Pauline notes about Leake, "He gets a lot of ink because he's a playmaking defender constantly around the ball. Leake has solid instincts in run defense but may be more a product of Clemson's defensive system. He has strong-safety size and unless he blows people away he is likely a late round pick."
One of the most important aspects to the senior linebacker during his last season at Clemson is his leadership ability. "We've got some great leaders on this team," said Leake. "I'm a great leader, and I'm going to prove it. I want people look to me make plays, and I'm going to be that guy."
In one of the most back-breaking plays of the year last season, Leake and Rodney Thomas made critical mistakes in a long run near the end of halftime by Florida State's Greg Jones. Leake has reviewed that play and many others from last year with new linebackers' coach David Blackwell. "When Coach Blackwell came in, I really learned how to tackle," said Leake. "I mean, of course I knew how to tackle, but Coach Blackwell really taught me how to use my hips. Last year, I would just leave my feet, and not use that force that can really put knock people down. Against Greg Jones, I was just trying to push him out of bounds, which was a mistake. It won't happen again."
Make no mistake about it, John Leake's performance on the field this year will go a long way in determining how successful the Tigers will be in 2003. He's added a solid 15-20 pounds and has lost absolutely none of his 4.43 speed. Furthermore, I think we'll see some nice development out of Leake as result of David Blackwell's instruction. While some experts will always find some minor flaw in his game, this truly could be one of the best years ever for a Clemson linebacker.