Florida Atlantic junior linebacker totaled six tackles, forced a fumble in Saturday's loss at Ohio State

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic middle linebacker Akileis Leroy expected to see at least some positive feedback after he made his first career start last Saturday.


What Leroy got after a nationally-televised, six-tackle performance against the fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, though, caught the junior by surprise.


"My social media was, like, blasting," Leroy said. "My phone, (the attention) almost made it go dead."


Leroy impressed in FAU's 45-21 loss to Ohio State. He sacked Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and, separately, forced a fumble in the second quarter.


Teammate Rashad Smith picked up the ball and returned the fumble to Ohio State’s 25-yard line. Redshirt sophomore kicker Vladi Rivas ended the drive with a 28-yard field goal.


"Although I had a couple scheme busts, I feel like effort-wise, it was a pretty good game," Leroy said.


Playing time isn't new for Leroy, who had 45 tackles across 26 games in his first two seasons. The 5-foot-11 special teams ace saw increased defensive snaps last year when Azeez Al-Shaair, then the Owls' starting middle linebacker, tore his ACL and MCL in October.


Al-Shaair and his replacement, Andrew Soroh, have graduated. Leroy held the starting middle linebacker job throughout the offseason.


FAU head coach Lane Kiffin said he was encouraged by Leroy's performance.


"I think he did do well, like you said, especially for a first start in a hard place versus some really good players," Kiffin said.


Cornerback Chris Tooley said Leroy has become one of the defense's more vocal players despite his lack of starting experience.


"He communicates throughout the defense and he's real physical," Tooley said. "He's a real playmaker."


Leroy hopes he can build off a successful start in Saturday's home opener against No. 18 Central Florida. The Knights routed Florida A&M 62-0 last week and scored 56 points in a victory over FAU last September.


Leroy said he's confident FAU's defense can contain a high-octane UCF offense, especially after holding Ohio State to 17 points in the final three quarters.


"I know, for sure, we trust each other," Leroy said. "Although we had those big busts in the first quarter, we all came together as one, let each other know that we gotta get better, but at the same time, we just gotta play ball.


"We all up here for one reason: We love to play football."


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