Dominating defenders

BATON ROUGE -- Sam Montgomery has a personality as big as his growing reputation as a football player.

LSU's junior All-American defensive end greets the media like old pals. He once hugged an official during an LSU game. He talks frankly about growing up "country" in South Carolina raising chickens and he says once he gets serious, coach Les Miles becomes "big daddy" on the field.

Montgomery's partner at defensive end, Barkevious Mingo, is as quick with a story as he is blowing past blockers on the way to the quarterback.

Like the one about Montgomery owing him a car wash because of a bet they had in the spring game over who would get the first sack. Mingo, who got the first sack, said Montgomery hasn't paid up five months later.

"It's Sam," Mingo said, as if that explains the tardiness of the collection. "I was supposed to take him out to eat, but I'm still waiting until after he gets my car cleaned first."

For the media, the Tigers defensive ends are a dream to interview. For opposing offenses, they might be the biggest nightmare in college football.

As sophomores in 2011, they combined for 17 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss. If opponents found a way to slow down the strong and relentless Montgomery, who led the team with nine sacks en route to being named All-American, odds are they used too many resources to also block Mingo -- who used blazing speed to lead the Tigers with 15 tackles for loss. So fast is Mingo, before college, he ran the anchor leg of West Monroe High's 2009 Louisiana Class 5A state champion 4x100-meter relay team

If you didn't know how good the pair was by watching LSU last season, you were reminded just after April's NFL draft.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper's first big board for the 2013 draft came out just after the draft and two of his top five picks were Mingo at No. 3 and Montgomery at No. 5. After that, there was little doubt who had the best ends in college football.

LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis certainly thinks so.

"I think with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo as a pair, I don't think I would trade them for any two defensive ends in the country," Chavis said at LSU's media day. "These are guys that are very talented. They fit our style of play and have been very productive for us."

Productive in different ways. Montgomery already was a physical player before he bulked up to 260 pounds at the start of August camp, some 20 pounds heavier than his August weight last season, and close to 30 pounds heavier than his lightest weight last season. He said, despite the weight gain, he didn't violate Chavis' rule to not sacrifice speed for size.

"One of the main things was, I was working with [strength coach Tommy Moffitt] on dynamic moves while I was gaining weight," said Montgomery, who had his most productive summer in the LSU weight room after he spent last summer recovering from a season-ending knee injury from his freshman season. "It was keeping me very agile, keeping me very speed-based. Gaining weight wasn't a problem."

For Mingo, staying fast was not a problem. Gaining the weight that Montgomery was able to put on was tougher. He's actually lighter than a season ago when he started the season at a smallish 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, then dropped to his current weight, 235, by season's end.

Asked if he's worried he couldn't put on weight the way Montgomery did, Mingo paused, then said "Not really," with a laugh.

"My body type won't let me," said Mingo, whose lean build more resembles a small forward than a defensive end. "I don't gain weight like that but when I do, it'll stick. Weight hasn't been a big issue to me."

If anybody outside LSU has an issue with the pair, it would be concerning Mingo's stature. Despite racking up eight sacks last season and gaining a reputation as perhaps the fastest defensive lineman in college football, Mingo did it mostly as a backup. It earned him a "pass-rush specialist" reputation and "future NFL 3-4 outside linebacker" tag.

At his size, is he big enough to endure the rigors of the SEC?

"I think I am," he said, adding that when teams run at him, he uses speed. "If I can get to my technique faster than [the blocker], I win," he said.

He has plenty of motivation to beat his blocker to the spot. There's a young secondary the line has to protect. There's the BCS national title that eluded him last season. There's a reputation to uphold to NFL teams.

And there are side bets he has with that other defensive end.

"Double or nothing," Mingo promised, "because he still owes me that car wash."