LSU's defense produced two of the top 14 picks of the 2012 draft, and they could get two even higher this year, because they possess the most dynamic pair of defensive ends in college football.
Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will be able to feed off of each other's productivity and talent to elevate their games to an elite level this season. So far this year, Montgomery has been the more impressive player, making plays and creating opportunities for his teammates on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage with regularity.
How is he doing it?
Montgomery is a classic long-limbed defensive end at 6'5", but he has a sturdy 260-pound build, giving him a significant presence in run defense and as a bull-rusher. He uses his long arms to obstruct passing lanes and keep offensive tackles away from his body on the pass rush.
Montgomery has a good vertical leap to increase his reach, but he is not a quick-twitch athlete. Still, he does have an extra gear of explosiveness and efficiency of movement when he is within striking distance of the football. Here, the ball-carrier is about to receive the handoff with the play designed to get outside of Montgomery:
On this play, Montgomery flushes Washington quarterback Keith Price from the pocket:
Even though Montgomery isn't going to win battles with his first step, he is still an accomplished pass-rusher. He is excellent on stunts and twists, when he dives inside to try to cross up the blocking scheme. Montgomery can also use his power to create pressure. On this play, the offensive tackle engages Montgomery at the 13 yard line:
On this play, Montgomery displays good hand-fighting to get past the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This is one of the more underrated skills of a pass-rusher:
Montgomery is a force against the run, and he clearly has a zest for defending on run plays. He is very strong at the point of attack, usually pushing the blocker in the backfield to disrupt the play and turn it back inside, as he does on this play:
Here, he pushes his opponent into the end zone and doesn't allow the Auburn running back to get to the edge:
Montgomery is the rare every-down 4-3 defensive end prospect with his length, strength and outstanding two-way game. LSU uses him in a 4-3 almost exclusively, but he can also effectively line up as a 5-technique defensive end when LSU goes to a three-man front:
There are few holes in Montgomery's game. Whatever sacks he misses by not being an elite-speed rusher are more than compensated for by his pass rush generated by strength and hustle. He puts his nose in just about everything that happens in the backfield, and his stamina keeps him at full speed well into the fourth quarter.
He is looking like an elite first-round prospect who could even threaten to go first overall if Matt Barkley continues to struggle this season.