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TOP 10 TIGERS OF 2023: #7 MEKHI WINGO

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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW ON X @LonnPhillips


Following LSU's regular season finale victory over A&M on Senior Day, finishing 9-3 over 12 games, yet another season is in the books, the final fall of the SEC West before conference realignment begins next August.

With just one more game remaining in the distant future ahead, we now have a full picture of who stood out as the 10 best Tigers of 2023....without further explanation, we're going to dive right in, just as we've done every season in which we've covered the team:



2023 COUNTDOWN SO FAR


And Now....


#7 MEKHI WINGO

7 GAMES

344 SNAPS

22 TACKLES

14 PRESSURES

8 STOPS (Negative Play Created by Tackle)

3 TFLs

2.5 SACKS


Despite a debilitating, season-long groin injury eventually forcing Mekhi Wingo to miss the final 5 games of the regular season, LSU's 2022 All-American defensive lineman was still impactful throughout his time on the field over the Tigers' first 7 contests, standing alone on Matt House's historically abysmal defense as one of the few barriers between our opponents and the end zone.

Meanwhile, some outside segments are suggesting Mekhi should come back for one more season at LSU due to a "disappointing 2023". Though fans are ignoring the fact he's projected as high as a mid to early 2nd round pick, it appears NFL GMs and scouts are fully aware of #18's imperial impact.

Among the roster of defenders that made up one of LSU's worst ever defenses, a select couple Tigers battled and ran their lungs to the bursting point, fighting on every down, making up for their teammates' mistakes, putting out fires wherever they could as "last Tigers standing"....simultaneously, these few received plenty of undeserved hell from their fanbase.

Don't believe me when I say Wingo had a strong season, as incomplete as it was due to injury?

You don't have to take my word for it:

The Missouri-born Tiger recorded the team's second highest defensive ranking (79.3), #1 run defense rating (80.0), and finished with the 5th most pressures at 14, alongside 2.5 sacks & 3 TFLs (for comparison, Mekhi recorded 6 TFLs and 3 sacks over 14 total games in 2022).

Just 1 sack away from eclipsing his 2022 sacking haul (requiring 4 fewer games), also drawing far more double teams than Wingo experienced throughout last season, the pass breakups (5 in 2022) and turnover participation (2 fumble recoveries last fall) stand out as the only things missing from his game.

Key components, sure.....but when #18 is swallowed up by O-lines, doubling Wingo at will, daring LSU's other D-linemen to shed their blocks, you can see the Tigers' #18 had his hands full.

As our best defender against the run, 3rd rated pass rusher, Mekhi was one of the few defenders wearing purple and gold to play with fire & intensity on every snap.

Wingo made up for his lack of stat-littering by simply doing whatever his team needed....even if that included taking on double teams so other D-linemen could penetrate the backfield (which rarely happened) or stuffing ball carriers as he barreled through blockers;

In Year 2 as a Tiger, LSU's 2023 defensive captain sacrificed his own stats (as well as his injured body) to help propel a talented, under-performing defensive front.

Wingo (behind BK's left shoulder) has been a team leader since his arrival on campus.

But at every turn, the Tigers' incomprehensible 2023 defense played far below expectations or capabilities, diminishing Wingo's high quality efforts, embarrassing the program by allowing 600+ yards to multiple offenses, surrendering 39+ points on 4 occasions (giving up 30 or more to 7 different opponents)...

As he battled a painful groin injury throughout his 2nd year wearing purple & gold, an injury that would later require surgery, Mekhi's best work was either very loud (sacking or hitting quarterbacks with more frequency than 2022, referenced by his violent reckoning of Florida St QB Jordan Travis), or increasingly subtle (creating an incredible amount of openings for others when taking on double teams, and rarely did any other DL or LB take advantage); Nonetheless, LSU's defensive captain was effective across his 7 appearances, remaining one of the Tigers' top 2 or 3 best defenders.

Ranking 3rd in our Top 10 Tigers of 2022 countdown, Wingo would've no doubt climbed higher up our 2023 list had he not suffered a groin injury, which hampered him through much of the campaign; No doubt his presence was sorely missed vs Alabama. In what was a touchdown-trading shootout, Alabama QB Jalen Milroe ran straight through the guts of the Tiger front.

Now, imagine LSU without Wingo next season....how does that look for the Tigers' chances of competing for a national championship???

Quite simply, the Tigers should be desperate to keep the highly rated NFL prospect on their roster....a settled, veteran leader possessing boundless potential & backed by proven results. With an expanding list of young, raw, superstar-caliber D-linemen coming through the pipeline, Wingo's presence, abilities & leadership is needed more than ever for the season ahead.

After the worst season-long showcase of defensive line play I've ever witnessed at LSU, the Tigers can't afford to lose such a huge piece of the D-line, let alone the entire defense.

Limited by his injury's pain barrier-testing nastiness, while his own play to play accomplishments are buried by terrible collective defensive performances, Wingo's 2023 is yet another "what could've been" for LSU's program. Amid a season where so many defensive questions went unanswered for all 12 games, the work rate, talent level, effectiveness, and selflessness of Mekhi Wingo was never in doubt.

CHECK OUT OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS WITH MEKHI WINGO!


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW ON X @LonnPhillips

©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings



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4 Comments


BayouTigerGal
BayouTigerGal
Dec 28, 2023

We really need Mekhi back in 2024. Not only is he extremely talented on the field; he has so much heart. Never quits! 🙏🏻💜💛💜🐯

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It would be a big deal to see him leave this offseason, and people will try and claim its not, we will be fine, but without his veteran presence on a very thin, very young line, especially one that needs toughening up and leadership, Wingo would be a huge huge miss for us.

LSU need to pay the man. He's taken 2 surgeries for this team. He deserves a major pay day more than anyone else outside of JD5, Perk, Campbell, Jones and the receivers.

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Getting him back is like landing a top flight five star. What a great thing that would be.

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I'm thinking he's coming back, or else he wouldn't be in this bowl game, but he's also a gamer, so that's why he may be appearing. But I just can't see him leaving yet. I haven't had a firm answer because he doesn't know himself yet. But he says he'll know after the bowl game.

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