Updated: Jul 10
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
With a new Head Coach in Brian Kelly and his entirely revamped staff, wildly different approach or philosophy compared to prior head man Ed Orgeron, while nearly 25% of their teammates and 2021 coaches exited amid Kelly's transition, it's a major sense of pride to see so many Tigers excel in 2022....in fact, we were forced to leave off 3 Tigers who could've easily fit on this list.
We will list those three when the top 10 countdown concludes....but for now, get into this, get yourself relaxed, drink something warm, eat something good, jive on our vibe and dive into the ultimate 2022 breakdown:
3. MEKHI WINGO
20 QB Hurries
Although most analysts expected Wingo to purely play a rotational / backup role behind Jaquelin Roy and Maason Smith last season, that assertion ended after only one defensive drive.
Due to Maason Smith's non-contact ACL tear, the 2021 Missouri All-SEC Freshman selection jumped at the chance to rise from strong depth option to an automatic starter....and Wingo did not waste his opportunity.
Bulldozing his way into the backfield as much as he utilized crafty moves off the edge or from a variety of interior positions, Wingo was deployed in a wide range of techniques along Jamar Cain's defensive front, appearing in the third most defensive snaps of any Tiger.
Kicking off his monumental campaign with a late 4th quarter goal-line fumble recovery vs Florida State, Wingo stood apart in each contest, grabbing 1.5 sacks vs Ole Miss and another vs Purdue, registering tackles for loss against Alabama, Arkansas, Miss State, Purdue, Ole Miss and Southern, while batting down multiple passes in consecutive games (Ole Miss & Alabama, including a 3rd clear and obvious tipped pass which wasn't called on the field vs the Crimson Tide).
Mekhi even recovered another fumble vs Florida, only for Harold Perkins' strip sack to be reversed by a highly debatable refereeing decision.
With each game, his status grew....until he finished the season as a 3rd team All-American, rated among the best overall defensive linemen for his consistent brilliance against top opposition.
For Mekhi's relentless mastery of their grueling, intensive summer workout program, he was named LSU's Iron Tiger by Strength and Conditioning Coach Jake Flint.
Over 14 games, Mekhi showcased exactly why he deserved to wear that crown:
Battling a tearing, injured labrum for the bulk of the campaign, Mekhi played like a man possessed rather than a hampered defensive lineman operating on fumes....
....instead, we witnessed Wingo throwing 300 pound offensive linemen around like rag dolls, chasing quarterbacks sideline to sideline with underrated pace, while his pedigree as a run stuffer became an unquestioned force on every down for Matt House's defense.
He was repeatedly at or near the top in the SEC for national run defense rankings on Pro Football Focus.
In a season of uncertainty, Wingo was always dependable, filled different roles with his versatility up front, anchored Matt House's overachieving defense, saved LSU at a major position of need right when the Tigers lost one of their most talented defensive players....proving himself to be an equally elite Tiger defender.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc