By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — In college football, it’s never easy to simulate in practice what you will face in a game. It’s hard for the scout team to replicate an opponents’ first-string units.
So, imagine trying to duplicate a national powerhouse.
For the Washington Huskies, perhaps the best way to simulate the speed, size, strength and the athleticism of the LSU Tigers might be to let the Bengal tiger they had at practice the other day out of its cage.
For a more realistic approach, maybe Steve Sarkisian could call up his old boss Pete Carroll and borrowed a few of the Seahawks.
That’s not a stretch. There might not be another college football team that is stocked with more future NFL talent than the team the Huskies faces Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.
“That’s a pretty talented football team,” said Rob Rang, senior analyst of NFLDraftScout.com.
Well, in Rang’s most recent mock draft for 2013 (yes, they are already out), he has four LSU player going in the first round, with two others projected for the second round and four more in the middle rounds. And that’s just the draft eligible players. It’s more impressive considering LSU had five players taken in last year’s draft, including two first-round picks and suspended all-American Tyrann Mathieu, who would have been picked in the first two rounds.
“They just keep reloading every year,” Rang said. “The last few years both LSU and Alabama have really taken it to another level in terms of accumulating talent.”
The best of LSU’s NFL-bound bunch is junior defensive end Barkevious Mingo. At 6-5, 240 pounds, he is a speed rushing machine that would fit perfectly as a rush outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. Rang has him rated as the third best player on his big board.
“He’s so explosive off the ball,” Rang said. “He plays with his hair on fire. It’s not different in pursuit. He’s playing just as hard 10 yards down the field as he does at the line of scrimmage. He’s going to be active and make a lot of plays, how many are behind the line of scrimmage remains to be seen.”
Mingo had 46 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, including seven sacks last season. He also had two passes batted down and 11 quarterback hurries.
“In my opinion, Mingo is the premiere pass rusher in the country,” Rang said.
And if it’s not bad enough having Mingo coming from one side, quarterback Keith Price will have to deal with Mingo’s counterpart — defensive end Sam Montgomery — coming from the other side.
Montgomery has added 20 pounds to his frame and is now 6-4, 260 pounds. He is also explosive coming off the line like Mingo, but Rang has him rated 19th. It’s a lower ranking that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who has Montgomery fourth on his big board behind Mingo.
“He’s explosive initially but he gets caught up after that initial burst,” Rang said. “If his first move doesn’t work, he ends up playing patty cake with the offensive linemen.”
Last season, Montgomery had 49 tackles with 13.5 tackles for loss, including nine sacks.
LSU is known for producing great defensive backs — most recently first-round picks — Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne. This year the Tigers have junior free safety Eric Reid. At 6-2, 215 pounds, Reid is built like a strong safety, but runs like a cornerback.
“He’s a superstar,” Rang said. “He has a knack for making big plays in critical times.
Reid led LSU with 76 tackles last season and forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes.
Rang’s other projected first-rounder for LSU — offensive tackle Chris Faulk — won’t play because of an injury.
Another player walking that borderline of being a first-round pick is junior defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
“I don’t know that he’d be a star on his own without those defensive ends,” Rang said. “Some clubs have first-round grades on him. I’m a little more cautious.”
The defensive line might be one of the best in college football.
“I think everyone wants to keep saying they are so big,” Washington coach Steve Sarksisian said. “They are big inside but they are fast on the outside, that’s what makes them unique. Sometimes you see teams that are big and D-lines that are fast, but they’ve got a combination of both of those and that’s what makes them so hard to deal with.”
But it doesn’t end there — Rang projects inside linebacker Kevin Minter, wide receiver Russell Shepard, running back Spencer Ware, offensive tackle Alex Hurst, defensive tackle Josh Downs as draft picks with back-up defensive end Lavar Edward and Chancey Aghayere as possible late-round draft picks.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on Washington,” Rang said. “But LSU’s No. 2 team defensive line might be starters for Washington, or a lot of teams for that matter. They are just so darn talented. They might not be technically sound, but they are so gifted.”
Of course, even Rang knows that NFL draft ratings don’t necessarily translate to college wins. Lots of teams with NFL players didn’t win games.
“LSU is really, really talented,” Rang said. “Washington has some talent too. I’m sure Coach (Steve) Sarkisian will have something up his sleeve to have them ready for Saturday’s game.”