Inside future Coug's big tackle numbers

THE NUMBER IS an attention grabber -- 493 career tackles. Clicking around MaxPreps reveals Cougar linebacker verbal Chandler Leniu is the most nationally accomplished prep career tackler in the 2014 class. And he's saved his best for last, with 205 stops this season. So how does a prep linebacker achieve such heights? He must be a supreme athlete, no? His answer may surprise you.

How does he do it? Why is Chandler Leniu out of Bellflower, Calif. always in on the play?

"Sound fundamentals," Leniu said. "It's all about staying home, seeing the game unfold and being patient and waiting for a play to develop and come to you."

I clicked through the Top 50 senior tackle leaders nationally this season and then looked up their career tackle numbers. According to maxpreps, not one of them even has 400 career stops let alone approaches Leniu's 493 total.

And it's not like Leniu (6-1, 225) and St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, Calif. are playing against easy pickings. Six of their 13 opponents (SJB played Mater Dei twice this season) have nine wins or more. Their opponents have a combined 103-53 mark.
,br> Meanwhile, as Leniu continues to rack up the tackles, he and St. John Bosco are 14-0, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Maxpreps and play for the CIF 2013 Football State Championship Open Division this weekend against Centennial (Corona). USA Today ranks St. John Bosco as the No. 5 team in the nation.

BUT TRYING TO GET Leniu to toot his own horn is about as easy as trying to get past him on the football field. He says he's been blessed with God-given talent. But much of what he's done can be attributed to hard work and being a student of the game.

"I just do my job," Leniu said. "I worry about my responsibilities out there. I won't let the opponent expose my team by exposing me. If I do my job -- if my whole team does their job – we're a pretty tough team. It all comes down to focus."

LENIU HAS POSTED an average 14.6 tackles-per-game through 14 games -- no small accomplishment. Posting 12 tackles per game for a career is even more extraordinary.

And yet in some facets of the game, his physical attributes may have actually deterred his success. Leniu knows he's a smart, heady player. But he checks himself on a daily basis with things he still needs to clean up and improve on the gridiron.

"I need to improve my speed and agility," Leniu said. "I'm a sideline to sideline player, but when it comes down to it, I'll need to get just a little quicker for Pac-12 play.

"The coaches at Washington State see how hard I work. I know what is expected of me, and I intend on meeting those demands. I'm ready to work. I'm ready to do things for that team."

THE TITLE GAME is right in front of him and is foremost on his mind. But he also said he can't stop thinking about the Cougs' up-and-coming program and how amped up he is to come into Mike Leach's rejuvenation efforts on the Palouse – just as they're starting to take hold. He said the WSU program has a ton of potential and furthermore, the city of Pullman is the perfect location for a big time football program.

"When I got there and took my visit, I loved literally every aspect of that town," Leniu said. "The weather, the fans, the people, the town -- and especially the academics. It was all perfect for me. I can't wait to play ball out there."

Leniu added that the WSU facilities, including the coming Football ops Building, and all the Cougar coaches in addition to Mike Leach, played a big role in reassuring him WSU was the best spot for him. Leniu said the entire WSU program felt like family -- something he was looking for since he considers his high school program such a close-knit bond.

"I just want Cougar fans to know that I cannot wait to get out there and win some games for the Cougs," Leniu said. "I'm excited to get to work and start doing everything I can to help that team on the field."

  • Leniu and St. John Bosco defeated Mater Dei 34-7 to win the CIF Southern Section Football Title last week. Leniu "only" tallied 9 tackles in the win, the first time this season he didn't have 11 tackles or greater.

  • USA Today computer rankings (Massey) have St. John Bosco's strength of schedule as sixth toughest nationally and their Power Ranking is No. 1. Their defense is ranked No. 6 and their Offense is No. 1.

  • Three of the four teams ranked above St. John Bosco in the USA Today poll also play this weekend.

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