Opponent Spotlight: Brian Leonard

Opponent Spotlight: Brian Leonard

He may not be faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive, but Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard can certainly leap tall would-be tacklers in a single bound. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior does not don a cape, but he is the NCAA's active scoring leader in touchdowns with 40 and is a Heisman Trophy candidate.

"I'm going to give him the ultimate compliment, ‘Don McCauley,'" John Bunting said, when asked to compare Leonard's running style to another famous ball-carrier.

Leonard is one of the most versatile and complete backs in the nation. He can catch passes, protect the passer, serve as a lead blocker, but most of all, he can run, Bunting said.

Named First-Team All-America by Pro Football Weekly for the second consecutive season -- and ranked the No. 1 fullback in the nation by analyst Phil Steele's preseason publication -- Leonard enters his final collegiate season just 19 points shy of setting Rutgers' career scoring record.

But it's what he can do in the open field that amazes Bunting the most. Leonard can either make you miss, or he'll go over top of you -- it's been dubbed the "Leonard Leap" in New Jersey.

"I throw on the [tape of the] Illinois game and I see him break one into the perimeter. The corner comes up to tackle him. I see him leap over him like a hurdler, and he goes for another 55 yards for a touchdown. It was an unbelievable play. Then I see him in a [film] cut up. He breaks it to the outside. A safety comes up to try and tackle him, staying up high on him, and he hurdles him and goes in another 15 or 20 yards for a touchdown.

"He has spectacular athleticism, and our players better be tall and stay up, because he's going to go over top of you."

A consummate workhorse, in 2005 Leonard rushed for 740 yards on 173 carries and 11 touchdowns, while catching 55 passes for 568 yards and six scores. He can also break off the big play. As a freshman, his longest run from scrimmage was 61 yards; his longest pass reception was 72 yards. Sophomore: 56 and 55, respectively; junior: 83 and 38.

And the Rutgers football program is not being shy in hyping their star player. They've got a full-fledged 'Leonard for Heisman' campaign, which includes a promotional video that airs four times per hour in New York City's Times Square on the 1,300 square foot screen.

UNC senior defensive tackle Shelton Bynum says he's not going to believe in Leonard's superhero status until he sees it for himself.

"Everybody has preseason hopes and all these accolades coming in before everybody takes a snap," Bynum said. "If they say he's good enough to be a Heisman candidate, he's got a bull's-eye on him now, because we're gunning for him, and we'll see what he's about.

"I'm not going to give him a chance [to leap over me]. I'm hitting him up high. I ain't diving at the legs."

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