Kevin Minter made 130 tackles in 2012. That's precisely 10 tackles a game.
I want you to look at that stat for a minute and just think about it. Ten tackles per game. Our previous entry, Sam Montgomery, never had 10 tackles in a game (he never had more than 6). NICKNAME REDACTED only did it twice. Eric Reid, who was all over the field, only made 10 tackles in four games in his entire career. Lamin Barrow, the guy who took over Minter in middle, had seven such games spanning over two seasons. Barrow finished second in tackles in 2012 and first in 2013.
And there is Kevin Minter, averaging 10 tackles a game. OK, part of that is propped up by that amazing game against Florida, in which he made 20 tackles and seemed to be the entirety of the LSU defense (he also, less memorably, made 19 tackles against Clemson). When he got hurt in the fourth quarter, Florida practically rejoiced and ran almost every play at where Minter used to be, such was his influence on the game.
Kevin Minter was a one man wrecking crew.
Now I know what you skeptics are thinking. "Oh, that's just a function of the defense. He was making these tackles downfield, after the offense gained its yards." You'd skeptics would be wrong. He also led the team in tackles for a loss in 2012, and that's with studs like Sonic Sam, Mingo, Edwards, and Freak on the line. He had more tackles for a loss than every other linebacker on the team, combined.
His four sacks only ranked fourth, but he was only half a sack out of second the team. Only one player on the team, Mingo, had more than a full sack than Minter.
The 2011 defense was historically great, and the defense couldn't help but take a step back in 2012. However, despite carrying over almost the entire front seven of the defense plus Eric Reid, the last true link to the destructive core of 2011 was Kevin Minter. He almost single-handedly kept LSU's nasty defensive reputation intact.
The amazing thing about LSU is that, despite our strong defensive tradition, we have not really produced that many great linebackers, historically speaking. It's not like there's been an absence of talent or anything. Bradie James was a monster and Kelvin Sheppard, Minter's mentor, ranks among the program's all-time greats.
But Kevin Minter was the first linebacker under Miles you could compare to Bradie James and Michael Brooks without feeling a bit silly. He is one of the all-time greats at the position and far and away the best linebacker to have completed his career under Les Miles.
Kevin Minter was a Butkus Award finalist, a first team All-American (Sports Illustrated), and a member of the 2012 SEC Academic Honor Roll. Minter is only LSU's second first-team All-American linebacker since Brooks in 1985, and the first in ten years. He not only left for the draft early, but he left LSU with a degree, as he graduated early. He had nothing left to prove on the field or in the classroom.
Minter is the standard by which we'll judge middle linebackers at LSU for the next decade.