Once there was a legitimate question as to how Kevin Minter could ever hope to fill Kelvin Sheppard’s cleats as LSU’s middle linebacker.
Lately, it’s worth asking how Sheppard — now a starter with the Buffalo Bills — would stack up against Minter.
The junior from Suwanee, Ga., has basked in a constant stream of adulation since the Tigers’ 24-19 win Saturday at Texas A&M.
Sunday, Minter was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week.
Monday, he was named one of three semifinalists for the Butkus Award (given to the nation’s top linebacker) from the Southeastern Conference along with Alabama’s C.J. Mosley and Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. He was also named SEC defensive player of the week and Louisiana Sports Writers Association defensive player of the week.
Tuesday brought two more national accolades for Minter, as he was named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week and the Chuck Bednarik national defensive player of the week by the Maxwell Football Club.
He led the Tigers with 12 tackles at Texas A&M, including a sack for minus-7 yards. He also recorded his first career interception, deflected another pass, and had two hurries against elusive Aggies signal caller Johnny Manziel.
Minter’s third-quarter interception halted a Texas A&M drive inside the LSU 45. His sack on the last play of the first quarter pushed the Aggies out of field-goal range back to the LSU 46 when the Tigers already trailed 9-0.
Minter (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) leads the Tigers with 75 tackles this season, including a whopping 41 stops in the past three games. That includes a 20-tackle effort Oct. 6 at Florida that was one off the LSU single-game school record.
Minter has already eclipsed his total tackles from last season, when he had 61 in 14 games. He ranks fourth in the SEC with 9.4 tackles per game.
For his recognition as the Nagurski player of the week, Minter’s name will now be added to the Nagurski Trophy Watch List.
Five finalists for the Nagurski — last won by an LSU player when Glenn Dorsey got the award in 2007 — will be announced Nov. 15 with the winner being named Dec. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.
In addition to his awards, Minter earned some surprising recognition this week from SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel.
In his weekly update of who he considers his top three current Heisman Trophy contenders, Mandel ranked Minter second behind Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein and ahead of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
Minter will get a chance in LSU’s next game to polish his résumé against another player starting to generate Heisman buzz: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.
Minter and the No. 6-ranked Tigers (7-1, 3-1 SEC) have this week off before hosting McCarron and the No. 1 Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 on CBS in Tiger Stadium. Alabama hosts No. 13 Mississippi State (7-0, 3-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis spoke Monday to the Knoxville (Tenn.) Quarterback Club, urging fans to support the Tennessee program where he was a player and assistant coach.
The Volunteers are 3-4 and 0-4 in SEC play in their third year under former LSU assistant and Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley. Chavis would likely be mentioned as a possible successor should Dooley be fired.
According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Chavis stayed away from such talk, including the 44-13 loss Saturday to Alabama that put the Vols’ record where it is now.
“Alabama ... I won’t say it,” Chavis said. “I’ll skip that.”
Now in his fourth season as LSU’s defensive coordinator, Chavis spoke fondly of his job in Baton Rouge.
“Obviously, I enjoy my experience working with coach (Les) Miles,” Chavis said. “Being in Baton Rouge has been a great opportunity for me, and I’m loving every minute of it, an opportunity to coach really outstanding players and compete for championships.”
Chavis said he didn’t like to see Tennessee struggle. The Vols have had losing seasons three of the past four years.
“I want nothing but the best for Tennessee unless we’re playing ’em,” Chavis said. “I had a lot of pride in this place. You don’t like to see anybody or anything that you care about go through tough times, but tough times are just tests for us.”
Chavis is making $900,000 at LSU this year, and stands to make $1.1 million in 2013 and $1.3 million in 2014. His defense is ranked in the top-10 nationally in yards allowed, points allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, pass efficiency and tackles for loss.
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