LSU’s defense has been lauded for many great achievements in the past few years.
Having a defensive tackle make serious waves in the Heisman race in 2007, two consecutive seasons having a defensive back be drafted in the first ten picks of the NFL Draft and a cornerback making it to the Heisman ceremony are just a few of the accolades.
But the linebacker’s corps has flown a bit below the radar.
In 2012’s first three Southeastern Conference games, two of LSU’s linebackers — Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow — have recorded a combined 60 total tackles, leading the team.
In the Florida and South Carolina games, they were the team’s top two tacklers while finishing second and third in the SEC opener at Auburn.
“We’ve really just been in the right place at the right time,” Barrow said. “[Defensive Coordinator John Chavis] has called the right plays and it’s up to us to make the plays. A lot of times it can be a defensive lineman or a defensive back to make the play, but we take it upon ourselves to make the play. And we’ve been doing that. We’ve made some plays that in some years haven’t been made.”
Minter was definitely in the right place at the right time against Florida, recording a school record 17 solo tackles. He would tally 20 total tackles for the game.
“The linebackers deserve a lot of credit,” said defensive end Sam Montgomery. “Kevin Minter has been an amazing leader at the linebacker position, doing what he needs to do. He’s also been a hype man for the defense along with being a playmaker.”
But the season has not been all smooth sailing for the linebackers.
Before the beginning of the season Tahj Jones was ruled academically ineligible. This meant the Tigers would have to rely heavily on a crew of freshmen that included Kwon Alexander, Deion Jones and Lamar Louis.
Then fellow veteran Luke Muncie went down with a virus that has caused him to lose substantial amounts of weight.
And two weeks ago in Gainesville, Alexander, the highly touted freshman, broke his ankle in the second half, ending his season.
Minter and Barrow were thrust into the spotlight as the two proven linebackers LSU still had standing.
And the two juniors, who came to LSU in the same recruiting class, have responded as a pair.
“We came in together,” Barrow said. “And Tahj went down before the season so we put it on ourselves to carry load. Luke has done a tremendous job, but he’s been sick and the young guys have stepped up on every play. We came in together and we’ve always had a chemistry and a bond that we were going to try and make this thing work. And so far, it’s been working.”
Barrow said while he and Minter are playing their role, it’s their comfort level with Chavis’ system that has allowed them to play at this level.
“Coming out of high school into his scheme, it’s the only scheme I’ve ever known,” Barrow said. “And for us to come in and learn so much from him and to have him fill us up every year, he’s a great coach and I’ve learned a lot under him and it’s showing.”
There’s also something to be said for the confidence Minter and Barrow have instilled in their fellow defensive players, especially a defensive line that thrives off having the ability to be aggressive in the pass rush and put opposing quarterbacks in the dirt.
“I just play my assignments, but it does make me comfortable to know the linebackers are going to go downhill and go all out for us,”Montgomery said.