After talking with his family, FIU's All Conference USA cornerback and punt returner Richard Leonard will be returning for his senior season for the Panthers. In addition to bolstering an improving FIU defense In an interview with fiusports.com, Leonard stated, "I want this team to have a winning season, contend for a Conference USA title, and be bowl eligible."
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Leonard would have been rated the 35th best corner in next season's draft, good for the 376th best player overall to come out of college. Since there are only seven rounds with 32 picks each, chances are Leonard would not have been drafted.
Leonard has been the heart and soul for the defense, racking up eight interceptions in 3 years with the team, including five last year, which was good for second in C-USA. In addition to his defensive prowess, he's an explosive addition to special teams, garnering All-Conference USA honors for his exploits. He returned one punt for a touchdown last season against North Texas, FIU's final game of the season.
Leonard can look to break other records next season. He is in the top six all time at FIU for several categories including interceptions (tied for third), interception return yards (third overall), pass break ups (sixth overall), kick returns (third overall), punt returns (fifth overall), punt returns for touchdowns (tied for first), and punt return yards (second overall).
With talent like Leonard's coming back for the Panthers, the defense looks to reach higher goals. Even with the disappointment of not being bowl eligible this past season, FIU' had a defense ranked 36th nationally, and ranked best overall in C-USA. Look for the Panthers to eclipse the top 20 in defense next year ,with eight returning starters on the team including several all conference players.