Because that group of Tigers is anything but typical, and that's just the way defensive line coach Brick Haley wants it.
As the 2011 season nears, the LSU defensive ends are healthy and hungry, a combination doesn't set up well for opponents.
With Sam Montgomery back from a major knee injury, Kendrick Adams and Lavar Edwards back with a year of experience under their belts and sophomore Barkevious Mingo's motor revved up in a little larger package, this is one area of a potentially dominant LSU defense that is poised to hold its own.
"There's not one guy I don't feel confident in that he can go in and make big plays for us," said Montgomery, the vocal leader of the unit. "There's so much talent there, Coach Brick can mix and match however he needs to."
Lots of it.
Montgomery is still regaining his full velocity and when he does, he'll still have a ways to go to keep up with Adams and Mingo.
That uncommon element across the board will be a huge key because Tigers defensive coordinator John Chavis needs the ends to be a collective force that:
• Keeps mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks honest and doesn't make getting to the corner a feasible or appealing option.
• Applies constant pressure whenever the QB drops back to pass
• Stays at home on the edge when opposing offenses utilize misdirection and counter runs to try to neutralize LSU's defensive speed
If the ends can consistently disrupt foes' running games to the outside and funnel the action inside to a defensive line learning on the job, that could make the Tigers a formidable challenge.
Taking away big plays on the perimeter will also free up the LSU linebacker corps – which may feature only two on a regular basis – to focus more on up-the-gut runs.
"We know we have to play a big role this season," Montgomery said.
Montgomery and Adams are the likely starters, with Edwards and Mingo able to back up either spot. Veteran Chancey Aghayere can also fill in and look for sophomore Justin Maclin and true freshman Jermauria Rasco to also make impacts along the way.
"We like to be able to have those guys at end who can do a little bit of everything," Haley said. "It gives you the ability to do a lot of different things and that's what we like to do."
The wildcard of the bunch is Mingo.
Up to 240 pounds (he played last season at 220), the former West Monroe track star is LSU's front-seven version of Tyrann Mathieu – a ball hawk who can line up in a lot of different spots and blow up a play in a hurry.
Last season the explosive 6-foot-5 Mingo showed the skills to be a pass rusher (2.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, 5.5 tackles for loss) as well as being able to drop back in pass coverage (6 pass breakups). He also forced a pair of fumbles and recovered one.
"I like that role," Mingo said of his undefined position. "It gives me the ability to play either side if one of the guys goes down or gets tired. It helps this team to move around because the offense doesn't know what's coming."
Last season he stepped into the starting lineup over the final half of the regular season when Montgomery went down and was steady with 21 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery he returned 29 yards for a touchdown and even an interception.
The bulkiest of the primary rotation at 264 pounds, Edwards could also be a factor against the power running games of teams like Alabama and Ole Miss late in the season.
"I'm a mixture of both speed and power, being able to play the run well and the pass," Edwards said.
Position coach: Brick Haley
Starters returning: 2
Lettermen returning: 3
99 Sam Montgomery (6-4, 245, RS So.)
94 Ken Adams (6-5, 255, Sr.)
OFF THE BENCH
89 Lavar Edwards (6-5, 264, Jr.)
49 Barkevious Mingo (6-5, 240, So.)
87 Chancey Aghayere (6-4, 279, Jr.)
54 Justin Maclin (6-4, 241, So.)
98 Jordan Allen (6-6, 252, RS Fr.)
59 Jermauria Rasco (6-3, 255, Fr.)
Out of action: None
Veteran difference-maker: Sam Montgomery
Rising star: Freshman Jermauria Rasco
Something to chew on: This position features two of LSU’s fastest players who weigh over 225 pounds – Adams and Mingo.
Numbers of note: As disruptive as Montgomery and Mingo could be at times, the Tigers’ ends combined for only 8½ sacks last season. … Rasco had more sacks at Evangel last season (21) than his five veteran teammates have combined in their college careers.
This unit will shine if: Montgomery stays healthy and Mingo can prove to be sturdy enough against SEC blocking when he enters the game in pass-rushing situations.
This unit will struggle if: The names of the right-side ends (Adams and Edwards) are rarely heard from the public address announcer.
Prediction: The ends will be more of a strength than last season, especially against spread offenses, by being fast and athletic enough to contain slippery quarterbacks.
Quotable: “We like to be able to have those guys at end who can do a little bit of everything. It gives you the ability to do a lot of different things and that’s what we like to do.” – Brick HaleyTSD season preview hub
Defensive ends at a glance