The biggest hole on LSU’s defense may not reside along the defensive line at either vacant position held by Sam Montgomery or Barkevious Mingo last season. The biggest void is the chasm in the middle of the defense held by All-SEC performer Kevin Minter, who ate up ball carriers in remarkable fashion in 2012.
Minter was arguably the SEC’s biggest breakout player, racking up 130 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and four sacks. No one saw Minter’s blowout season coming, and replacing him will be that much tougher. He’s a first-round-type talent that we’ll be watching on Sundays in the future.
Minter is just one of the six starting defensive players who are notably absent this spring for the Tigers.
The leading candidate to take over Minter’s job is rising senior Lamin Barrow. Barrow started all 13 games at weakside linebacker, making 104 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and five QB hurries. He’s versatile enough and athletic enough to play inside or out, and he’s one of the finest linebackers the SEC will have to offer. Barrow has recorded 139 tackles and nine tackles for loss in his career, and ‘12 was his most productive season yet.
Rising junior DJ Welter is another candidate who could replace Minter. Welter only appeared in one game last season, making just two tackles.
Sophomore linebacker Lamar Louis is also in the mix. Louis played in 11 games last season, starting five. He made only 13 tackles, but his experience will be invaluable.
Though LSU’s defense returns talent and depth, competing for a championship after replacing six starters will be tough. The underproduction from Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo in 2012 gets overshadowed because Minter was such a boss. Just call him the Eraser; he erased the front four’s lack of production and elevated the play of those around him.
Barrow has the upper hand and is a shoo-in to man the middle of the defense, but he certainly has massive shoes to fill. Still, Barrow knows the defense and what John Chavis is trying to accomplish scheme-wise, and he is the Tigers’ most experienced linebacker.
Returning a veteran like Barrow bodes well for leadership and continued success for a perennial top defense in the SEC.
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