Kevin Minter doesn't envision LSU's defense fretting over any quarterback, not even Texas A&M's explosive, headline-grabbing, dual-threat freshman, Johnny Manziel.
Minter and LSU held Oregon in check last season. Just last week, the Tigers racked up four sacks against South Carolina's Connor Shaw — a good scrambler in his own right.
So while being showered with question after question about how No. 6 LSU was going to cope with Manziel's playmaking ability, Minter acknowledged there was a part of him that wanted to roll his eyes and just say, "We can handle this." But the senior linebacker didn't want to come off as disrespectful, either.
"Anything can happen. We've still got to prepare well and execute," said Minter, who leads the team with 63 total tackles, including 8½ tackles for losses. "They're a very talented offense and we can't just go in there cocky thinking, 'Oh, we got this. We've played teams like this before.' It can get bad for you real quick with an offense like this."
Earlier this week, LSU watched film of the 20th-ranked Aggies' 59-57 victory over Louisiana Tech in Shreveport last Saturday night. Manziel's 72-yard touchdown run, in which he appeared to be coasting to his right on a roll-out before a sudden burst up field, got the defenders' attention.
"He's surprisingly fast. You don't necessarily know until he's leaving you," Minter said, adding that in watching video, he noticed defenders being caught off guard by Manziel's acceleration and breakaway speed. "You can tell (defenders pursuing Manziel) don't go as fast as they need to and all of a sudden he takes off and they're panicking. He's 30 yards down the field already. So we've got to be able to crowd this guy and play LSU defense."
Playing LSU defense means the kind of speed to the ball, sound positional play and sure tackling that has the Tigers ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in rush defense (89.3 yards per game), pass defense (130.3 ypg) and total defense (219.6 ypg).
The Aggies, meanwhile, lead the SEC in scoring (47.0 points per game), rushing (235.8 ypg), and total offense (543.7 ypg).
Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 576 yards against Louisiana Tech, rushing for 181 yards and three touchdowns and completing 24 of 40 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns. In six games, Manziel has nearly 2,400 yards of total offense.
"He's fast, real fast. He's a dual-threat quarterback like ones we've faced a couple times this year but he's faster. ... We have to make sure we keep him contained," LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan said.
"He does a pretty good job throwing the ball on the run and he also does a good job faking like he's going to throw it and when you jump to bat down the ball he'll tuck the ball and run," Logan added. "Coach was telling us to make sure we stay on our feet when we get to him. Don't try to jump for the ball or anything. Make sure you get him contained and tackle him down low."
Texas A&M does not allow freshmen to speak with the media, so reporters have not had a chance to get Manziel's opinion on the type of defense he'll be up against this week. However, it's clear that his coaches are trying to prepare him to face one of the toughest units he's seen this season.
"You never know what LSU is going to throw at us. They have such great athletes and players that they can do whatever they want and it's going to be a challenge," Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury said. "Watching 11 guys fly for the football on every snap is impressive. I have the utmost respect for this team. When you turn on the film, you see a hard-playing, hard-nose team and it goes a long way."
Minter and Logan both said that while Manziel might be the fastest quarterback they've faced, they also believe the Tigers have some of the fastest players that the Aggies freshman will see on a defensive line. Defensive end Barkevious Mingo and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson are as fast as anyone playing their positions, Minter said.
This week, Jerrard Randall has been running the scout team against the starting defense, and Minter believes facing the speedy backup quarterback in practice has served the Tigers well in preparing for dual-threat QBs all season.
"He's running the ball around and to be honest with you, we haven't faced a mobile quarterback like Jerrard Randall," Minter said. "He just gives a great look out there and when we go against these mobile quarterbacks I feel like we're more than prepared to face them."