Imagine the plight of an offensive coordinator preparing to face LSU’s defense with the idea of keeping your quarterback upright and in one piece.
You drill the offensive line and running backs on where the pass rush will come from, most notably the defensive ends and the Tigers’ various blitzes. You get them convinced that the right game plan will work – getting rid of the ball quickly, sidestepping an occasional rush from the edge.
Then right when you have that basic idea implanted and some confidence built up, you have to turn your attention to Barkevious Mingo.
Backup defensive end Barkevious Mingo.
|Sam Montgomery: 'There's nothing like Mingo coming off the edge because he's so fast.'|
“There’s nothing like Mingo coming off the edge because he’s so fast,” LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery said. “He’s real fast.”
Added Tigers’ left tackle Chris Faulk, whose practice week involves a dose of Mingo whenever LSU’s No. 1 offense goes head-to-head with the top defense, “KeKe is just so unique. I haven’t seen anybody in the SEC with speed like him. He helps me be a better tackle because in practice I have to constantly be aware of somebody like him because of that speed.”
Indeed, Mingo’s speed is something not many coordinators, linemen, backs and especially quarterbacks can truly prepare for or fully grasp until they see it live. By then, it’s usually too late.
Mingo is hard to camouflage when he comes into a game. It’s the when he comes in that adds to his impact as much as the speed that turns him into a 6-foot-5, 240-speed-rushing pound blur.
In 21 games as a college player, Mingo has started just once. Instead of hearing his name blare out over the speakers before a game, Mingo is that player who has learned how to patiently roam the sideline waiting to come in when needed.
Waiting to pounce.
“It’s taken some time to get used to, but I think it’s the best way to help this team and I’m fine with it,” said Mingo, who leads LSU with 7½ tackles for loss and -34 yards in losses and has matched Montgomery for the team-high with 4 sacks.
“Standing on the sideline, I’m focusing on what play is being called, how the guys are set, seeing how I need to play. You never know how a team is going to play day-to-day. Coming off the bench, I have the luxury of seeing what they’re trying to do before I go out there.”
And that’s not a luxury for the opposing offense.
Mingo often spells Montgomery at the right end and brings a completely different look and methodology than his more physically imposing teammate.
“He plays a very special role and a very important role and he takes it very seriously,” Montgomery said. “I try to wear a defense down by pounding them over and over, and when he comes in, he hits them his speed. It’s like a tag-team effort.”
There are even times when Mingo and Montgomery are in the game at the same time – and could be more with left-side starter Kendrick Adams mending from a knee injury.
Those occasions are rare and a pure nightmare for the offense.
While speed is unquestionably Mingo’s top asset, he has also shown the kind of tenacity that LSU defensive players have become known for. A nasty streak that belies Mingo’s laid-back good nature off the field.
“You have to have a little meanness to you when you’re on the field because the guy lined across from you, he’s not going to take it easy on you,” Mingo said, grinning ear-to-ear.
The combination of speed and meanness is not a great recipe for opposing quarterbacks.
LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee said he cringes when he sees his counterpart in a situation when the Tigers’ ends can pin their ears back and go to work.
|Mingo: 'You have to have a little meanness to you when you're on the field because the guy lined across from you, he's not going to take it easy on you.'|
“I can imagine if we weren’t wearing a green jersey out there in practice,” Lee said. “All of us quarterbacks would be done for. When you have guys like (Mingo) and Sam coming after you, that’s not very fun.”
For now, Mingo’s role is likely to stay the same – a sixth man of sorts on a defensive line loaded with talent.
LSU coach Les Miles says he has no doubt Mingo is ready to be an every-down end. But the pecking order and depth up front gives Tigers defensive line coach Brick Haley the luxury of holding Mingo back for situations when he can do the most damage.
Adams is a senior and will continue to man the left end when he’s healthy. Lavar Edwards offers a sturdier frame (6-5, 264) at that spot as a backup.
So Mingo will remain a dangerous wildcard, entering the game when LSU needs a speed rush or perhaps just a jolt of energy.
“Our d-line assistant coach (Thomas McGaughey) is always preaching to know your craft and know the other man’s craft,” Mingo said. “It makes you more valuable and that’s something I’m continually working on.
“The way Coach Brick does it, if you see a guy tapping (his helmet) or a guy busts a play, he’ll tell somebody else to get in there. I usually stand right behind him, and as soon as he says ‘I need an end,’ I’m running out there.”
Once he gets on the field, Mingo is intent on staying as long as he can.
Along those lines, he has worked hard to gain weight – and strength – although his frame still more closely resembles a linebacker, which is the position he played at West Monroe.
As hard as Mingo goes from the time he steps on the field, he also stays aware of his effectiveness, especially with the depth LSU has behind him, including freshman Jermauria Rasco.
“We want guys out there being fresh, flying around and making plays, and if I’m not 100 percent I don’t want to be out there because I can’t help my team as much and we have other guys who can,” Mingo said, then smiled. “But I love being out there as long as I can.”
Makes sense when you consider that Mingo is still a relative novice when it comes to football.
At West Monroe, Mingo was a basketball and track star for the Rebels in his first two years of high school and didn’t think much of a football career.
Only after some teammates from the other two sports convinced him, along with West Monroe defensive coordinator Jerry Arledge, did Mingo give football a shot.
“The coaches sat me down and told me they thought I’d be a really good football player,” Mingo said with a smile. “I never paid much attention to that but then when I got out there, it felt pretty natural.”
Added LSU guard Will Blackwell, Arledge’s grandson and a former star for the Rebels, “My grandfather takes a lot of pride in saying he coached KeKe. He likes to take credit for getting him out there on the football field, and he’s very excited that he’s doing well.”
Well enough to cause headaches for offensive coordinators up and down the LSU schedule.