By BRETT MARTEL / The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's Barkevious Mingo tries to appreciate fans' preoccupation with his unusual name, although it's getting a little old for him.
"I've been asked about it probably every week," he said. "I guess it gives people something to talk about, but I've lived with it for 21 years. I don't think it's a story."
Yet, there's a vicious cycle going on this season. The more Mingo makes big plays for No. 1 LSU, the more his name gets out there.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Mingo is a reserve defensive end whose specialty is speed rushing in passing situations, but he is putting up starter-type numbers.
Heading into the Tigers' next game at second-ranked Alabama on Nov. 5, Mingo leads LSU in tackles for losses with 7 1/2, while his four sacks is tied for the team-lead with starting end Sam Montgomery. He has also forced one fumble.
He is much quicker than the typical defensive lineman, sometimes running down ball carriers from behind on the other side of the field from which he lines up.
When Mingo was asked if he was comfortable with the "reserve" label, he had no complaints.
"I am a reserve, but we rotate a lot so it's just kind of one of those things," Mingo said. "I don't mind coming off (the bench). I actually get to benefit from it."
Mingo said he uses his time on the sideline to analyze opponents' blocking schemes, then comes in fresh, when he can truly test an offensive lineman who may already be breathing heavy.
Montgomery said Mingo is as important to LSU's defensive line as a premier sixth man in basketball.
"Those guys who can come in and play just as good as the guy who was out there, make just as many plays, that's when you have a rotation and a complete team with depth," Montgomery said. "Mingo knows his role and he plays it well and is very humble."
Mingo got his first name from his mother, Barbara, who combined the first part of her name with the name Kevious, which she also likes. In high school, Mingo played linebacker at West Monroe, a Louisiana powerhouse, and starred for the 2008 team that made it as far as the state championship game.
After spending 2009 as a redshirt at LSU, he played in all 13 games last season, with one start, and made 35 tackles, including 5 1/2 tackles for losses and 2 1/2 sacks to go with two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. His combination of speed, height and long arms also make him adept at deflecting passes, which he did six times last season and once so far this season.
Last weekend against Auburn, Mingo twice burst into the backfield and put quarterback Clint Moseley flat on his back before he could get rid of the ball.
Because of LSU's depth, Mingo will likely remain a reserve for the foreseeable future, but his game has improved to the point where Miles does not want to limit him to passing situations.
"He could be an every-down guy in my opinion," Miles said. "His contribution Saturday was excellent."
Montgomery said Mingo's strength is easy to underestimate because he looks slender,
"Mingo might be skinny, but Mingo has a sting to him," Montgomery said. "He has the ability to transform his speed into power."
Montgomery also described Mingo as the consummate teammate.
"When I'm down, he always takes time to listen," said Montgomery, who missed much of last season with a knee injury. "He helped me through rehab. ... My knee was hurting and little bit (at a recent practice) and I wasn't going to tell coach. Mingo goes and tells the coach for me. It's little things like that that let me know that Mingo is 100 percent a genuine friend."
When the Tigers visit Alabama, Mingo will have an opportunity to show beyond a doubt that he is also much more than a pass-rushing specialist.
"I feel that way because they're a heavy run team, have big tackles, big guards, have a big back, so it's going to be a challenge," Mingo said. "I think my skill set is growing every week and I feel I could be an every-down end. It's just one of the things that whenever the coaches put me in those positions, I'm going to capitalize on it and help this team out."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)