Coming off a redshirt season, the West Monroe graduate used his first spotlight appearance to lead the defensive line with seven tackles and a pair of sacks – head-turning numbers from a young name who hadn’t stepped onto a college field for live play.
“He was everywhere that day,” said fellow defensive end Sam Montgomery. “It has been like that in practices and scrimmages since. If we are rushing the passer, nobody can get a hand on KeKe. He’s that fast.”
For defensive coordinator John Chavis, a second season in Baton Rouge gives the Southeastern Conference veteran coach a chance to use speed-rush ends for the first time at LSU.
“It’s amazing when you look at those guys, and you watch them run sprints and they are running side-by-side, and you look at the times they’re running, both of those guys are faster than almost every one of our linebackers,” said Chavis of Mingo and Montgomery. “We are talking about guys who are legitimate 4.5 (40-yard dash) guys, so we’ve got some speed there now. That’s going to be a benefit for us, and certainly rushing the passer is something that we’ve got to do better.”
So where does Mingo fit into the fold?
“We will run the Mustang package in long-yardage situations, especially third down, and that will be built on speed,” Montgomery said. “I will be on one end and KeKe will be on the other, then we will keep Drake (Nevis) and Pep (Levingston) inside. It’s going to be four guys that are hard to hold from getting into the backfield and taking care of the quarterback.”
While the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Montgomery expects to land a starting job, Mingo’s duties will remain relegated to specific down-and-distance situations.
The message from the staff to Mingo: add more weight.
“(Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Tommy) Moffitt just tells me to eat, eat, eat and not lose any weight at camp,” Mingo said. “I came in at 205, and then I lost a lot during camp last year. I had to get back up during the course of the last year, but I’m happy with the weight I’ve gained. I am about 230 pounds now.
“I can play like this, but I want to put on the weight,” he added. “The coaches would be quicker to put me in the game, and I could throw that weight around.”
Tabbed as the No. 6 outside linebacker in 2009 by Scout.com, Mingo’s decision to play with one hand on the ground in the Southeastern Conference made his weight issue paramount.
14 months after he first stepped foot onto the LSU campus, the West Monroe standout feels that if the pounds are there, consistent playing time this fall will follow.
“I don’t think anyone is locked in right now,” said Mingo of the depth at defensive end. “I want to break one or two. I think I can be (in that range). I have shown the coaches what I can do, and hopefully they will put me in the game.”
Whether Chavis decides to bring him into the two-deep rotation remains to be seen. Yet midway through fall camp, The Chief couldn’t be more pleased with the effort being put forth by names like Mingo.
“There’s a lot of competition going on,” he said. “People are fighting, and the beauty of the situation is that some of those older guys have taken those younger guys by the hand, and they’re teaching them, and they are working with them, knowing that you’ve only got one choice. You’ve got to get better, or he’s going to take your spot.
“Again, the youth is always exciting,” Chavis continued. “They are excited to play, and not that our older guys aren’t because they are too, but I love being around a young football team that is eager. This football team is eager.”