Leniu Hauls in Cal Offer

Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco middle linebacker Chandler Leniu snagged a buzzer-beating offer from the Bears before the dead period began, and talks in-depth with BearTerritory about Cal, his upcoming state title game against De La Salle and more.

Saturday's state semifinal pitting Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco against California commit Tre Watson and his Corona (Calif.) Centennial Huskies was decidedly not a defensive affair. The Braves and Huskies battered one another until, in the end, Bosco came away with a 70-49 win. There was one notable defensive bright spot, though: Braves linebacker Chandler Leniu.

As Bears outside receivers coach Rob Likens and running backs coach Pierre Ingram looked on, Leniu tallied a staggering 23 tackles. The Washington State commit was already on the edge of an offer, and those 23 stops were the clincher. On Sunday night, Cal defensive coordinator Andy Buh flew down to see Leniu in person, and just beat the dead period to the finish line with an offer in tow.

"After the game, the coaches talked to me, and they liked my performance, so the next day, they pulled the trigger," Leniu told BearTerritory. "The defensive coordinator came to my house last night and offered me on the spot."

Buh told Leniu that his fellow coaches came back with rave reviews, and, as the Bears make a hard push to sway Leniu's teammate Shay Fields, they were also putting him squarely in their crosshairs.

"He told me how great I played, and he saw it on TV and wanted to see for himself, so he came down to see me, and he was just happy to be here," Leniu said. "He was happy to talk to me in person. Everything was great.

"I was speechless at the moment. It's another blessing handed to me from up above. It was great to have coach Buh come over to my house and tell me in person. It really shows that he means a lot, and cares. It's just a great experience to have for him to come down."

Not a bad two days for the 2014 three-star middle linebacker.

"Everything's been going well for me right now," he laughed.

Leniu has been committed to the Cougars since late September, following his official visit, but characterizes his pledge as soft.

"I wouldn't call it a commit; a commit is when I sign in February," Leniu said. "Right now, I'm a soft commit, nothing big. I'm going to be committed to them, for now, but we're going to see how the season plays, after the season. I'm just going to wait."

Leniu and Buh broached the topic of an official visit to Berkeley, but won't set anything up until the dead period is over, if it indeed happens.

"I'm going to figure it out," Leniu said. "It's still up in the air for me."

Leniu said he might also trip to Fresno State, but that's the only other visit he's contemplating.

The chance at early playing time is a real possibility for Leniu, given the fact that some linebackers may be contemplating transfers, as Buh said the Bears have only two middle linebackers (presumably some combination of Hardy Nickerson, Jr., Nick Forbes and Michael Barton, who can also play on the outside) for next year.

"They told me that I'd play in their middle spot, and that they only have two middle backers, so they need some depth in there," Leniu said. "They told me I could come up there and fight and maybe have a shot at it."

With Cal going hard after Fields and 2015 quarterback Josh Rosen, landing Leniu could go a long way towards securing a couple more commits, particularly because of Leniu's relationship with Fields.

"We always talk it over with each other," Leniu said. "We're like brothers. It's a close relationship, since last year, when I came out last year [from Lakewood High]. I just felt welcome. Shay is like an older brother to me, and Josh, too. They've been great to me. They're great kids."

Before Leniu gets down to ironing out a potential visit to Berkeley, though, he has two more games in his high school career. Before he suits up for the West in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Jan. 5, he and the Braves (15-0) will square off against Concord (Calif.) De La Salle (14-0) on Dec. 21 for the state title.

"It's just a great experience to play against the team to beat," Leniu said. "They're one hell of a team. They've won many championships, so they've been there, they have experience, and this is my first, but it's a great opportunity to play against the best."

After facing Watson and a powerful Centennial rushing attack last weekend, Leniu and Bosco defense will be tasked with stopping a Spartans running game that's churned out 5,121 yards on the ground (365.8 per game), led by senior John Velasco (1,997 yards) and sophomore Antoine Custer (1,141).

"I'm excited," Leniu said. "They have a power running game, so we've got to come together as a team and execute. Their offense is a really great offense. [Centennial] had a great quarterback, a great running back, and they played against De La Salle, so they know what it takes to beat them. They came up short, but it was a great offense to prepare us for the game. It's a great opportunity to play against one of the great teams."

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