As a name, Barkevious Mingo has no peer.
The year he signed with LSU out of West Monroe High School, the man his friends and family call “Ke-Ke” won an online fan poll created by one of the national recruiting websites.
The award? Name of the year.
Mingo made his name in recruiting as one of the state’s premier linebacker prospects. So it was with some trepidation that midway through what would eventually be a redshirt freshman season in 2009, Mingo agreed to a request by defensive coordinator John Chavis to shift from linebacker to defensive end.
“I was like, ?Uh-oh. Gotta put my hand down,’” Mingo recalled.
For a rangy player like Mingo (6-foot-5, 240 pounds), playing as a down lineman was a foreign concept.
Foreign, but not impossible to master.
“The offseason before (the 2010 season), I was just flying around making plays in camp,” Mingo said. “That really helped my confidence. I knew I had a role to play.”
So far it hasn’t been a starting role - the third-year sophomore has just one start among his first 21 college games.
It has been a starring one, however. And the Auburn game was typical of his play.
Despite the fact senior Ken Adams had to sit out because of injury (unlike the constant mix-and-match forced on LSU’s offensive line, this was the first missed start on the defensive front), Mingo still came off the bench though listed as Adams’ top understudy.
LSU’s coaches slid junior Lavar Edwards, Sam Montgomery’s backup at right end, into Adams’ starting slot at left end. Mingo didn’t enter the game until LSU’s fourth defensive snap.
Two plays later, Mingo made a big splash, sacking Auburn quarterback Clint Moseley for a 6-yard loss to force a punt.
His second sack was even more crucial.
Late in the first quarter, still down just 7-0, Auburn drove from its 33 to face second-and-goal at the LSU 9. From there, Mingo sacked Moseley for a huge 15-yard loss back to the LSU 24.
Two plays later, Auburn settled for a 42-yard Cody Parkey field goal. Auburn wouldn’t find the end zone until LSU already had a 45-3 lead and the outcome had long been decided.
Mingo made four tackles in all and added a quarterback hurry to his dominant day. For his performance, Mingo was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week.
“We know we just want to get the defense off the field as fast as possible and put our offense on,” Mingo said.
“The quickest way I know how to do that is sack the quarterback.”
Mingo excels at that. Though playing in a purely reserve role, he now has four sacks to share the team lead with Montgomery. His 7-1/2 tackles for loss out of just 19 total tackles overall leads the team in that category.
“If we weren’t wearing a green (no-contact) jersey in practice all us quarterbacks would be done with,” LSU’s Jarrett Lee said.
“They’re a fast group, those ends we have. There have been a couple of times this season it’s been brutal to watch those (opposing) quarterbacks. It’s good to have those guys on our team.”
Oregon’s LaMichael James would probably agree.
It isn’t difficult to make Mingo breakout into a broad grin - it seems to be his standard expression. But it puts an extra-large smile on his face to recall the play in LSU’s season opener when he dragged down the speedy Ducks running back from behind.
“I was excited after that play,” Mingo said, “just going crazy. It was a good feeling.”
A feeling that perhaps is about to be trumped when No. 1-ranked LSU squares off with No. 2 Alabama (both 8-0, 5-0 SEC) on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“(Defensive tackle) Michael Brockers said it best,” Mingo said. “He was over at my house (Tuesday) night and we were watching a commercial (about the game) and he said, ?Do you realize we’re going to be playing in that game?’
“It kind of does seem unreal. They’re hyping it up so much.”
The Tigers worked extra hard during the offseason to slim down and speed up, the sole intent to stop Oregon’s quicksilver offense.
The question now: Can LSU be versatile enough to stop Oregon and smash mouth Alabama in the same season?
“I think we can because of the style of defense we play,” Mingo said. “It’s physical AND fast. You usually never see a fast defense that’s physical. That’s one of the things that makes us as good as we are.”
It’s one of the things that makes Mingo as good as he is - and more than just another name on the LSU defense.