In football, it’s never easy to simulate in practice what you will face in a game. Your scout team just can’t replicate an opponents’ first-string units.
Trying to duplicate a Southeastern Conference 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 borrow a few of the Seahawks.
That’s not a stretch. There might not be another team in college football that is stocked with more NFL talent than the team the Huskies will face Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.
“That’s a pretty talented football team,” Rob Rang, senior analyst with NFL Draft Scout.com, said of the Bayou Bengals.
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 lost All-American Tyrann Mathieu, who would have been picked in the first two rounds, to suspension.
“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 who 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 eight sacks last season. He also batted down two passes and was credited with 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, UW 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 6-5, 260 pounds. He also is explosive coming off the line like Mingo, but Rang has him rated 19th on his big board. That’s a lower ranking than 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.
“He is going to make the highlight play, but he might not be as consistent as Mingo,” Rang said. “But he’s still very good.”
Sandwiched in between Mingo and Montgomery on Rang’s draft board is junior safety Eric Reid. At 6-2, 212 pounds, Reid is built like a strong safety, but runs like a cornerback. Rang has him rated seventh overall on his board.
“I think he’s a superstar,” Rang said. “He’s a bigger safety and he can run. He has a knack for making big plays in critical times.
LSU is known for producing great defensive backs – most recently first-round picks Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne.
“Peterson is a ridiculous athlete that didn’t have the best technique, while Claiborne had the technique but not quite the speed,” Rang said. “Reid is a little of both. He plays all over. I hate to say it, but he’s almost like Sean Taylor. He’s exactly what you are looking for in a safety.”
Reid tied for the lead at LSU with 76 tackles last season. He also forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes.
“He’s been a good player his entire career,” Rang said. “He’s been that good since day one and has just gotten better.”
Rang’s other projected first-rounder for LSU – offensive tackle Chris Faulk – won’t play because of an injury. And reports Thursday said that he could miss the rest of the season with a knee 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.’’
And it doesn’t end there: Rang projects inside linebacker Kevin Minter, running back Spencer Ware, wide receiver Russell Shepard, offensive tackle Alex Hurst and defensive tackle Josh Downs as draft picks with backup defensive ends Lavar Edwards and Chancey Aghayere as possible late-round selections.
“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.”
And this is just the players who are eligible for the 2013 draft. LSU also plays plenty of sophomores, redshirt sophomores and true juniors who have NFL futures, starting with cornerback Tharold Simon – a 6-3, 193-pound cornerback. He was so good, teams chose to throw at Mathieu’s side last season.
“He is the next big thing for them,” Rang said.
Of course, even Rang knows that NFL draft ratings don’t necessarily add up to college wins. Lots of teams with NFL-caliber players don’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.”firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @RyanDivish