Crow finds place in Bulldogs' defense

Updated: October 1, 2003, 3:20 PM ET

RUSTON, La. -- Antonio Crow arrived at Louisiana Tech with visions of becoming the Bulldogs' next great quarterback.

Five years and 40 pounds later, Crow is indeed performing at a high level, but instead of tossing passes he is tossing ball carriers.

"I came here to play quarterback, but it didn't work out," Crow said. "The first two weeks they moved me to safety and then I gained too much weight. I came here thinking I would at least do something with the ball on offense, but I guess things work out for the best."

In his fifth and final season, the former all-state quarterback is having a breakthrough season at strong side linebacker. He is one of the reasons the Bulldogs' defense ranks second in the Western Athletic Conference in scoring defense as Tech (2-2, 0-1) prepares for a big showdown with defending WAC champion Boise State (3-1, 0-0) Saturday.

"There are only two senior starters on defense and Antonio has emerged as a true leader," said co-defensive coordinator Randy Bates, who also coaches the linebackers. "He has taken over that role and is a great deal of the reason we're playing the way we are."

Through four games Crow leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 32, including one quarterback sack.

"He's done very well," Tech coach Jack Bicknell said. "He's a great leader and a fantastic player. He's a physical guy who can run."

Crow was on campus for just two months as a freshman when he added 40 pounds to his one-time quarterback frame and then left behind fellow quarterbacks Tim Rattay, Brian Stallworth and Maxie Causey.

It was a move Crow was more than willing to make and one that suits his aggressive nature.

"I never dreamed I would come to college and play linebacker because it's a whole different perspective," Crow said. "I love linebacker. I would rather hit them than be hit. It's a rough position, but once you get the feel of it it's great."

This season, Crow has definitely gotten the feel of it. After spending the previous two seasons bouncing around to different linebacker spots, he has settled into the strong side spot.

"I played all three positions last year," Crow said. "I pretty much knew the defense, but moving around so much was tough. Now that I'm outside, I know my assignments better and it helps me play faster."

Crow has recorded seven or more tackles in three of four games and turned in a career-high 15-tackle gem in Tech's 20-19 victory over Michigan State.

"It's been fun," Crow said. "Right now I'm just playing, having fun and making tackles."

Crow's strength and foot speed make him ideal for the strong side, where he must take on the tight end at the point of attack.

"He's played strong, middle and outside, but he's got a middle linebacker build and mentality," middle linebacker John Nash said. "I've seen him whip every tight end we've played against."

Last season, injuries limited Crow to 10 games and just 36 tackles. Now, in his last season, everything seems to be falling into place.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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