Former LSU football players have lofty goals

INDIANAPOLIS — Barkevious Mingo was addressing reporters Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine when a voice in the crowd asked whether the former LSU defensive end was going to miss playing alongside the guy sitting next to him.

Mingo shifted his gaze to the center of a cluster of seats before him and stared right into the eyes of his former bookend on the LSU defensive line, Sam Montgomery.

“Not at all,” Mingo said before breaking out in a laugh.

It’s difficult to go anywhere in Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend without stumbling into a Tiger. There are 13 former LSU players at the combine, and business picked up for the Bayou Bengals on Saturday with the arrival of the first group of defensive players in the media room.

Mingo and Montgomery could each hear his name called in the first round of April’s draft, and defensive tackle Bennie Logan might not be far behind.

Logan was not a highly decorated recruit when he arrived in Baton Rouge, and he credited coach Les Miles and his staff for helping his game develop. Now that he’s in Indianapolis, Logan is applying his work ethic to the task of catching another coach’s eye and punching his ticket to the NFL.

“It’s hard work and dedication and how far hard work can get you,” Logan said. “I was underrated coming out (of high school), and I had to work harder. The hard work doesn’t ease up. I have to still work hard because right now I’m competing against the best in the nation. Nobody’s going to lay down for me, so I just have to work hard and get better.”

Montgomery showed up with a newly chiseled physique that shows the work he has been putting into his predraft preparation.

Known for his power at defensive end, Montgomery said he has been working on his footwork and coverage skills as an outside linebacker.

He weighed in at a “slim, trim 263 pounds” and said he’d be a good fit for any defense — as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. He said he admires the toughness and versatility of the Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs and would like to use the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year as a model for his career.

“Then again, it’s disrespectful to the veterans to compare my game to them because I haven’t walked in their shoes, yet,” Montgomery said. “You have to earn your stripes. For right now, I model myself as rookie Sam Montgomery.”

High expectations and lofty comparisons already are flying around Mingo.

Logan said there’s a friendly competition among the Tigers heading to the NFL, fighting to see who will come off the board first. Mingo and Montgomery said they have a $5,000 bet riding on their draft positions.

But teammates express astonishment at some of the things Mingo can do.

“He has his own style of play,” Logan said. “He’s a freak. ... I’ve never seen anyone do the things he does.”

There aren’t many certainties in a draft that lacks a consensus No. 1 pick, but Mingo’s name is repeatedly mentioned as a top-10 candidate. There’s some question about his weight — he came in at 241 pounds at the combine — but there’s little doubt about his potential.

In some mock drafts, Mingo has been projected as high as No. 2 to Jacksonville. But he wouldn’t confirm Saturday whether he had met with Jaguars representatives.

“I spoke to a lot of them,” he said, “and it’s kind of hard to remember all the teams.”

Montgomery was less reluctant to get into specifics about his future. He spoke in depth about his admiration for the Ravens and their defense. He also mentioned Pittsburgh as a preferred landing spot.

But when asked whether he saw himself as a good fit in the New Orleans Saints’ new 3-4 defense, he really lit up.

“Louisiana has done me well over the last few years, and it would be a good networking base,” he said. “Louisiana might be my (NFL) home.”

Later, Montgomery said he would be happy to play for any NFL defense because “they are all superstars.” He likely won a few new fans with his personality here, but there were some questions about his work ethic at LSU. And Montgomery addressed that honestly.

“You know, some weeks when we didn’t have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed,” he said.

“But when we had the big boys coming in — the Bamas or the South Carolinas — I grabbed close to those guys and went all-out.”

Montgomery said he knows they’re all Bamas and South Carolinas in the NFL, and he has an answer for any teams worried about his effort.

“When you are young, you do things as a boy. But when you grow, you do things as a man,” he said. “From a maturing standpoint and from everything going into this league that I have learned so far, I was a boy in college, and now that I’m going into the league, I’ve become a man.”