ATHENS, Ohio - At first, Ohio University defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow stuck to the format when talking about linebacker Quentin Poling during a brief rundown on each returning player. Burrow didn't need many words to describe Poling's worth: "It's just his leadership."

ATHENS, Ohio - At first, Ohio University defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow stuck to the format when talking about linebacker Quentin Poling during a brief rundown on each returning player.

Burrow didn't need many words to describe Poling's worth: "It's just his leadership."

Asked to expound, Burrow started gushing about Poling, who led the Bobcats in tackles, sacks and interceptions as a redshirt freshman last season.

"Quentin provided leadership just with his play," he said. "He's not going to be a screamer or the guy who hits people on the side of the head. He just leads. He has good size. He has tremendous speed. He has so much knowledge about the game. His football intelligence is off the charts."

Poling is expected to be running all over the Kibbie Dome tonight to tackle ball-carriers when the Bobcats open the season against Idaho.

Last season, he had 89 tackles, five sacks, 31/2 other tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries and three interceptions. He broke up three passes.

Bobcats linebacker Jovon Johnson has received plenty of publicity during the preseason for being so athletic and active, yet Poling had 22 more tackles in 2014. He had 34 more tackles than another standout linebacker, Blair Brown.

At 6 feet, 219 pounds, Poling can run with tailbacks and more than keep up with receivers who enter his zone.

The intelligence factor is what separates him from most other defensive players. Burrow said Poling knows what the 10 other defenders are supposed to be doing on every play.

"You have to know that," Poling said. "A big part of linebacker is not just what I'm doing but what the other players - the defensive backs, other linebackers and linemen - are doing and what they have to do all the time. I think that makes the difference between being a good and great linebacker. You just have to know what your defense is trying to do every single play."

Burrow said Poling is important this season because Ohio plans mass substitutions among the front seven to keep players fresh in what is designed to be an attacking scheme.

Organization, Poling said, is a big part of his life off the field. He's a pre-exercise physiology major with designs on getting a master's in kinesiology and becoming a physician's assistant.

"I've always been organized," he said. "I've been driven."

Ohio might have lucked out signing Poling. When most blue-chip high-school juniors-to-be were attending summer football camps held by major colleges, he was sitting out with a pulled thigh muscle from running track at Elida High School.

Poling was redshirted at Ohio in 2013.

The only change Burrow wants from Poling is that he be more vocal, especially in the locker room.

That, Poling said, could be a challenge.

"I'm definitely not the hype man," he said. "I try to think a lot and focus."

@markznidar