Image created by Brett Gering
When the spotlight's shining, linebacker Kevin Minter hunts signal-callers at a pace that could put Bruce Wayne out of business. And his highlight reel provides no shortage of evidence.
The LSU standout declared for the 2013 NFL draft as an underclassman. But come April 25, Minter could sit at the head of his inside linebacker class.
While Manti Te'o continues to garner the lion's share of headlines—for better or worse—Minter actually grades out more favorably from a tangible standpoint. In comparison, the SEC star tipped the NFL combine scales at a heavier weight, yet still recorded a faster 40 time (Minter: 4.67, Te'o: 4.71) and demonstrated more hip explosion in the broad jump (Minter: 119", Te'o: 113").
Last season, as a junior, No. 46 stockpiled 130 total tackles, including an impressive 15 tackles for loss. He also contributed four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in 2012 (via Sports-Reference). Te'o posted 128 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and one forced fumble as a junior (via Sports-Reference).
If the numbers don't sell skeptics on Minter's potential, the highlights will.
This is your brain on drugs.
The Ole Miss offense is pinned against its own end zone on the one-yard line. And the (2011) LSU defense arguably boasts the quickest collective unit in Division I football.
So, Ole Miss responds with the only rational solution: run an end-around.
After the snap, the quarterback, wide receiver and halfback appear equally clueless. Even if the wideout secured the handoff, he would be running laterally—two yards deep in his end zone—against a defense revered for its closing speed.
Instead, miscommunication leads to a fumbled exchange. And Kevin Minter surges through the bodies and pounces on the ball for his first—and last—college touchdown.
When LSU traveled to College Station last season, Kevin Minter and Co. spent an entire afternoon terrorizing Johnny Manziel.
The Heisman winner only managed to complete 29 of 56 passes for 276 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. And to add to the frustration, Manziel's 17 rushing attempts yielded a meager total of 27 yards (via Sports-Reference).
And Minter played the role of catalyst. The middle linebacker tallied 12 total tackles, one sack and one interception before he clocked out (via Sports-Reference).
In the above play, he lines up on the strong side and initially plans to rush Manziel. But he bails after realizing the motion receiver is headed to the flat. The wideout snags the pass and turns upfield. But as he jukes an LSU cornerback, Minter closes the distance and drives his target into the ground.
No. 46 has been the proverbial thorn in the side of Florida fans.
During this particular play, halfback Chris Rainey takes the toss and stiff-arms a would-be tackler in the backfield.
Meanwhile, Minter evades the right tackle as he glides in Rainey's direction. Florida's fullback then takes out the linebacker's legs with a cut block. Somehow, Minter still manages to launch himself from the ground and thump the football out of Rainey's grasp with his helmet.
The middle linebacker finished the contest with six tackles and the aforementioned forced fumble.
But that performance was just a sample of the damage that he would impose on Florida in 2012.
LSU overloads Alabama's offensive line via blitzing.
Minter missiles through the "B" gap, and Trent Richardson doesn't locate him until it's too late.
The result looks like a promo for the National Geographic Channel. And A.J. McCarron's the gazelle.
Minter charges with a full head of steam and runs through the Alabama quarterback like a rabid bull—the hit, alone, spanned five yards from the initial contact to where McCarron landed.
Minter's 2012 performance at Florida opened blind eyes and silenced all skeptics.
The LSU linebacker made a theme out of stalking and swarming ball-carriers from sideline to sideline. This highlight illustrates one such instance.
Florida tries to set up a screen for wideout Frankie Hammond (in this case, the split end). Quarterback Jeff Driskel looks off the free safety, then snaps his head toward Hammond. But Driskel briefly hesitates before slinging it Hammond's way, which allows the nearby cornerback to break on the route before the ball even takes flight.
Hammond manages to juke the aforementioned corner, but he struggles to maintain his balance while turning upfield.
Minter storms into the frame and blasts Hammond near the sideline, but not before he clubs the football six yards in the opposite direction (and most importantly, inbounds).
The linebacking nightmare halted Florida's drive—which was in position for a game-tying field goal—once again.
With the score knotted at 35, the Ole Miss offense attempts to keep LSU on its heels with assorted play-calling. This call backfired, though.
After scanning the field for threats, quarterback Bo Wallace elects to retain possession on a read-option.
Meanwhile, Minter jukes a flat-footed left tackle out of his shoes en route to the backfield.
Wallace then sidesteps pressure before attempting to bulldoze his way through No. 46. And as expected, Minter promptly redirects Wallace and reminds him why he needs protection.
Mississippi State's aerial assault, at times, exploited LSU's secondary in 2012. Nevertheless, it was still only able to tack 17 points on the vaunted defense.
One of Minter's two tackles for loss occurred during the featured screen pass.
Running back Nick Griffin roams out to the flat while the center and left guard rumble ahead to clear a path.
But Minter sweeps around the tag-teaming tandem with ease. And as a result, Griffin is barely able to secure the pass before being lassoed to the ground.
The linebacker's next highlight occurs under the bright lights of the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
As quarterback Tajh Boyd attempts to step up in the pocket, Minter stampedes through the interior of the line and treats the center like a 300-pound rodeo clown.
The always-elusive Boyd tries to spin away from the pressure, but Minter ultimately anchors him in the turf.
As the play unwound, No. 46 showcased distinguishable closing speed and eye-opening power.
In football, demonstrations of raw strength appear after every snap—so much so that helmets can pop off without most fans raising an eyebrow.
But every now and then, a player is so helplessly overpowered that he inadvertently tackles the person he's assigned to protect. That's a true testament of strength, and that's exactly the kind of outcome that Minter set in motion against Auburn.
The opposing fullback actually exits his stance before the snap, and Minter instantly beelines toward him. No. 35 seems fully intent on lowering the boom once through the A-gap. Instead, he plows into a cement wall and subsequently slingshots back into the end zone—directly at the knees of his running back.
Minter's consecutive sacks only represented a sliver of the damage he dealt Florida in 2012.
On the first play, he pierced through the line with flawless timing, swarming Jeff Driskel before the fullback is even afforded a chance to block.
History then instantly repeats itself.
LSU overloads the strong side, resulting in four pass-rushers attacking two offensive linemen. In order to compensate for the blitzing linebackers, the defense's right defensive end drops out into the flat.
By the time Driskel realizes his hot read is nullified, he's crushed by the human cannonball that is No. 46.
Minter finished the afternoon with 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble to his name (via Sports-Reference).
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