mingo-game2

Besides having a great name, Barkevious Mingo also has great upside. He is raw, long, heavy-handed and he has very good intangibles, according to many reports. The latter alone gives him as likely of a chance to maximize his potential as anyone else. Questions still persist, however, about his on-field performance from his final season.

The raw data shows 4.5 sacks for Mingo last season, a 2.5 regression from the previous (he had seven sacks in 2011). That’s concerning for many because typically pass-rushers who sack the quarterback in college end up sacking quarterbacks in the NFL. If he doesn’t sack college quarterbacks, then who’s to say he will sack them in the pros?

But that’s not an entirely rational way to evaluate the LSU star. He faced many issues last season, some of which include an oddball coaching staff and facing double teams.

His coaching staff appeared to have used him in a read-and-react pass-rushing mode, which sometimes made him look undisciplined and frankly, useless. The coaches used him in “rush-to-cover” situations — that means he rushes the passer until a running back leaves the backfield, who he goes to cover — more frequently than they should have and didn’t really unleash him downhill. When he did get unleashed, his pursuit of the passer was quickly halted by multiple blockers. That made it difficult to rack up sacks like others did, but he still showed potential.

He showed that he had the athleticism to work around offensive tackles and instinctively loop through the offensive line on stunts. He also showed that he had powerful hands that knocked blockers back. That’s vital for a pass-rusher in the pros — unless you’re a speed rusher — because more often than not, to beat an offensive tackle, one has to go through him.

When Mingo wasn’t facing multiple blockers and was expected to rush the passer, he had fundamental issues that he needs to leave at the door of his next training facility. He played too tall because his pads were erect, and for all his athleticism, he wasn’t very flexible from snap to snap. If he can get this cleaned up in the pros, then he’ll have the chance to show off his impressive pass-rush tools.

One play that I enjoyed rewinding endlessly from Mingo’s past season was a fourth quarter sack against South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are in the red zone with just over two minutes left in the game. It’s 2nd-and-eight and they’re down 23-14 to LSU. To have a chance of winning this game, they have to get points out of this drive, and the only way to do that is to move the ball toward the end zone. Mingo, who is set to be unleashed after the quarterback once, isn’t going to let that happen.

Mingo’s lined up at left end, in the five-technique spot of LSU’s 40 front, outside the right tackle’s outside shoulder. His lanky frame is coiled up. His right arm is digging the dirt of the field and his left leg is staggered forward, set for explosion. Mingo doesn’t have great “juice” (scouting term for explosiveness), but he has enough of it to pose problems for the right tackle, who is hunched over in a two-point stance that indicates pass protection.

At the snap, Mingo takes four long strides forward as if he’s going to be speed rushing like most raw college ends do. The offensive tackle, who started off facing the end zone, turns his entire body to face Mingo and deal with his supposed speed rush. As he continues to turn, Mingo changes direction, raises his long arms up and engages in contact. In the process of engagement, he brilliantly squares his hips and simultaneously lowers his pad level to gain a leverage advantage on the massive blocker.

Mingo in the process of squaring his hips.

Mingo (No. 49) in the process of squaring his hips.

Fully engaged with the blocker, Mingo pushes his right hand against the blocker’s left shoulder and uses his strength to create separation. The separation knocks him slightly off path to the quarterback because of the size difference, but he shows balance by taking two steps and using his right arm to even his weight.

Creating separation and having one arm free is essential to pass-rushing.

Creating separation and having one arm free is essential to pass-rushing.

When he creates the separation, Mingo’s pad level creeps up again, making it more difficult for him to bend around the edge. He quickly fixes it, however, by extending his right foot and lowering his hips once again, all the while keeping the tackle at a distance with his right arm. That enables him to turn the corner and fully turn his back to the blocker, who has a difficult time rerouting Mingo wide of the pocket as a result.

Image No. 1: Mingo lowers his pads to turn the corner. Image No. 2: Mingo turns his back to the blocker.

Image No. 1: Mingo lowers his pads to turn the corner. Image No. 2: Mingo turns his back to the blocker.

The quarterback climbs the pocket to avoid Mingo’s rush and he nearly does. As the quarterback is moving forward and cranking his neck to avoid the sack, Mingo sticks out his right arm, which is now free, and wraps it around the top of the quarterback’s jersey to bring him down for the nine-yard sack. It sets the Gamecocks’ hopeful touchdown drive back a play and LSU holds on to win the game.

The sack above is one of not many for Mingo. His production wasn’t great last season, but there were many factors which contributed to that. He’s expected to be used properly in the NFL, where he’ll ideally be asked to rush the passer relentlessly as a weak-side, C-gap defender. He’ll perhaps go to a team like the Cleveland Browns or Jacksonville Jaguars, two teams that are moving to a new hybrid front that will rely heavily on a Mingo-type player.