Position Preview: Who fills in the shoes of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair?

The linebacker corps looks to step up after Azeez Al-Shaair’s departure to the NFL.

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Position Preview: Who fills in the shoes of linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair?

The linebacker corps for FAU looks to be led by Rashad Smith and Akileis Leroy Photo by: John DeStefano

The linebacker corps for FAU looks to be led by Rashad Smith and Akileis Leroy Photo by: John DeStefano

The linebacker corps for FAU looks to be led by Rashad Smith and Akileis Leroy Photo by: John DeStefano

The linebacker corps for FAU looks to be led by Rashad Smith and Akileis Leroy Photo by: John DeStefano

John DeStefano, Contributing Writer

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With the season opener tomorrow against Ohio State, one of the more interesting positions facing FAU football is the linebacking corps. 

The departure of star linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair to the NFL left the remaining LBs with big shoes to fill, and today, the UP takes a look at how the Owls and their new Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer plan to do just that.

One interesting addition to the FAU defense this offseason was the “LEO” position, which is a hybrid linebacker and defensive end role. 

This brainchild of Spencer’s will allow defensive ends to drop back to the second level to augment the linebackers in pass coverage, and will present opposing offenses with some very different pre-snap looks. FAU fans can expect to see multiple iterations of this type of formation used this season.

Perhaps the biggest unknown is Chase Lasater. The 6’2”, 235-lb redshirt sophomore played in only two games last season and recorded two tackles. Lasater is a converted fullback who made enough waves in camp to be a likely candidate for backup MLB. He will need to prove his abilities in pass coverage as well since Spencer frequently employs a nickel defense.

Hosea Barnwell V was consistently one of the hardest workers over the past two years and the walk-on’s efforts were rewarded during the offseason with a full scholarship for his senior campaign. His 3 and a half tackles for loss last year came while only appearing in nine games and for limited snaps. The 6’0, 215-lb Miami native is expected to receive considerably more playing time this year. 

When Al-Shaair was injured midway through last season, the Owls defense found a breakout star in Akileis Leroy. The 5’11, 235-lb senior recorded 39 tackles in 11 appearances. Leroy has always been considered undersized for his position, but has not let that stop him from making clutch individual plays from OLB position. 

Senior Rashad Smith, who led his team in tackles last year, was a dark horse for this year’s All-Conference USA team, has recorded 184 tackles and seven sacks over the past two seasons while his four interceptions last year also led the Owls. Smith has eyes towards the late rounds of the NFL draft and will solidify his stock if he puts together another impressive year. 

The Owls’ first game is tomorrow in Columbus, Ohio against No. 5 Ohio State.

John DeStefano is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected]