- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Barkevious Mingo's smile was almost one of embarrassment.
Told Monday that LSU coach Les Miles had called him, without hesitation, the most improved player on the Tigers' team during August camp, Mingo said, "I don't know why."
It's a scary thought, actually. Many had already predicted the junior defensive end to be one of the top picks in the 2013 NFL draft. He was in the conversation of the best pass rushers in college football.
But Miles said Mingo has gotten even better in August.
"Keke (Mingo's nickname) improved routinely through last fall," Miles said. "Those guys that have that kind of experience, when they come back to the fall, they've done it once now and now they recognize it more quickly. Suddenly, they have greater recognition of the play and greater speed to the ball. Of course, Kiki's got great speed and he's gotten faster and stronger."
As a sophomore, he was second on the team behind Sam Montgomery with eight quarterbacks sacks and had a team-high 15 tackles for loss. He did that mostly as a backup to Kendrick Adams. If there is still doubt about Mingo, it's on whether he can be an every-down end, considering his smallish weight (235 pounds) and the fact that he hasn't been tested every down in the past.
Mingo recognizes what's missing on his resume and said he worked in camp to improve.
"I wanted to be a better run stopper," said Mingo, who grew up primarily playing basketball and running track before picking up football in high school. "I really didn't get too many runs my way last year. But I know it's coming, so that's something I set out to do better at."
Mingo said that, despite losing 12 pounds, he's stronger than a season ago. Beyond that, he said he's focused on technique improvements.
"You want to get leverage and move quicker than the blocker," he said.
Show goes on
Despite the approach of Hurricane Isaac, which has Baton Rouge directly in its projected path after making landfall to the southeast near New Orleans, LSU was scheduled to practice at 2 p.m. CT Tuesday after meetings that started at 11 a.m.
School is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, so the Tigers were able to bump up the start of their practice.
"Nothing stops our preparation. Not even a hurricane," kicker Drew Alleman declared in a tweet.
The heavy rains and winds of Isaac are forecast to plague Baton Rouge until Thursday morning. LSU opens the season at home Saturday night against North Texas.
Miles said Monday both have been practicing lately and look to be healthy and ready to go for Saturday.
"I like our tackles a lot," Miles said. "Both of them are very healthy. They've been practicing for a week or so, or more. Both have taken every snap at practice for four or five days. There is no issue there."
Miles said Dworaczyk is most likely to see snaps at his old position, left guard, against North Texas. He said Alexander will get snaps behind Hurst at right tackle.
Kragthorpe moves to field:
When asked about the condition of quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe, Miles quipped that "his condition seems to be middle-aged."
Kragthorpe is battling Parkinson's disease and Miles' joke was commentary on how well Kragthorpe, who stepped down as offensive coordinator last August after learning of his diagnosis, is handling the condition.
More evidence of his health is from his changing game-day role.
Instead of coaching from the press box, as he did last season, Kragthorpe will move to the sideline where he can be hands-on with quarterback Zach Mettenberger and backups Stephen Rivers and Rob Bolden.
"I think it's good for the quarterbacks to have a quick, clean head and no problems with communication," Miles said. "We'll see how it goes. If it benefits us, then certainly we want to do that. I would anticipate that this is going to be a good change."