It's finally Kevin Minter's turn.
Now in his fourth year on campus, the 6-2, 245-pounder from Suwanee, Ga., is the man at middle linebacker for LSU.
He's certainly bided his time and learned the ropes. Minter watched from the sidelines his first two years in TigerTown as standout Kelvin Sheppard roamed the middle, and he played in a timeshare situation with converted safety Karnell Hatcher a season ago.
This year the job's all his, and four games into the 2012 season, Minter, who leads the team with 25 tackles, has excelled as a full-time starter. A week ago defensive coordinator John Chavis even acknowledged he's playing as well as any middle linebacker in the country.
On Monday, two days removed from LSU's 12-10 win at Auburn, Minter opened up on the improved linebacker play this season, the talented true freshmen ‘backers and what's it like playing behind the Tigers' defensive line.
Minter gave a lot of credit to his fellow starters at linebacker, Lamin Barrow and Luke Muncie. The two juniors at outside linebacker have combined for 32 tackles and an interception. Not that Minter's surprised.
"Not necessarily," Minter answered when asked if their quick starts shocked him. "They always had experience throughout the years. Throughout the years , every year, they've gotten some play. But to be honest with you, the way we prepared this offseason with all the drills and all the 7-on-7, it's no surprise to me that they're doing this well. I'm proud of them."
He's particularly proud of the progress the entire corps has made in pass coverage.
"This fall camp, and this spring really, we took such great strides in our coverage skills," explained Minter. "We focused a lot on that during 7-on-7 and stuff like that because we feel like it's where we were missing a little bit last year. We were pretty good on the run, but coverage was kinda subpar. We had to do something about that. I feel like we're improving pretty well in that area."
LSU's middle linebacker did voice some frustration on defending Auburn Saturday. Despite the fact the visiting Tigers only gave up 86 yards rushing on 30 carries (2.9 ypc average), Minter indicated he felt the War Eagle offense provided some issues for his defense.
"They game-planned well against us," Minter conceded. "They did well on the perimeters, just giving it to [Onterio] McCalebb, who is unbelievably fast. I didn't realize it. You see him on film and you think he's fast until you go against him.
"And it felt like there was always a lineman right there in the way. They did a lot of misdirection, and my hat's off to them. They did their thing. I'm not going to lie – it was pretty frustrating the whole night."
It was in large part due to the stellar play of the defensive front, according to Minter, that LSU was able to disrupt Auburn's running rhythm and get into the backfield. No. 46 knows he plays behind a strong line.
"You can't necessarily man-block those guys," Minter said. "You've got to double-team, chip, zone block because if not they'll have a field day. A lot of teams realize that. We have a very dominant D-Line, and that takes a lot of pressure off me."
Something Minter admitted has put a little pressure on him as well as on Barrow and Muncie is the arrival of six talented true freshmen at the position.
Minter spoke candidly about the young Tiger linebackers, saying the future is bright and some of the frosh could even be called upon now, if needed.
"They're definitely pushing us. Even though we're starters right now, anything can happen," Minter said. "Those guys, man, they're so talented. They could just as well step up and take one of our positions. (Laughs) To be honest with you, me and Lamin, we have a pact. We can't let any of those freshmen take our spots.
"These guys, they're going to be incredible. Just watch. The way they get it in practice, the way they prepare – they're way better than us when we were freshmen. Everybody sees it. Y'all will see."
Two of them in particular have caught Minter's eye.
"I guess I would say Deion Jones, of course, and then Kwon Alexander," Minter said, pegging the two most capable of playing now. "I can say they could probably step in right now and do their things. All of them are athletic, and all of them have a pretty good understanding of this defense. But they (Jones and Alexander) are a little bit better or maybe they've just adjusted a lot better. I guess it's because they did a lot of this stuff in high school, but with all the formations and stuff like that, you can just tell they understand it better.
"Ronnie [Feist] and them, they're coming along, too. But it's just the Mike position, you've got to know a lot more. So I can't actually say he's ready right now, but he's good."
Man in the middle
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