LSU junior linebacker Kevin Minter has been named to the 2012 Butkus Award watch list.
The Butkus Award is handed out annually to the top college football linebacker. Semifinalists will be named on Oct. 22 and finalists will be named on Nov. 20. The winner will be announced on Dec. 4. There are 15 SEC linebackers among the 51 total linebackers on the watch list. An SEC player last won the Butkus Award in 2009 (Rolando McClain, Alabama). LSU has not had a player win the Butkus Award.
Minter became a full-time starter last season and made 11 starts out of 14 games. His 61 tackles in 2011 ranked him fifth on the team. Minter also had 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for a touchdown against Ole Miss. His career-high for tackles is 11, which he recorded in 2011 against Western Kentucky. Minter at middle linebacker will be the only returning starter among the Tigers linebackers.
I doubt Minter is going to be able to accumulate the statistics necessary to draw enough attention to make the list of finalists. Last season, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly won the Butkus Award and had an amazing 191 tackles to go with his three interceptions. Kuechly will be a tough act for this year's crop of linebackers to follow. Minter will also have stiff competition in the SEC. Two Alabama linebackers finished behind Kuechly and Georgia's Jarvis Jones was also a finalist last year. While the two Alabama linebackers from last season were drafted, Jones returns and the Crimson Tide have two strong candidates in Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley. They split time last season but I would expect that Alabama will find a way to play both of them at the same time this year. Jones made 70 tackles (19.5 for loss), 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2011 for the Bulldogs.
While it is nice to see Minter get some recognition after last season, I'm more interested in seeing how he leads the linebackers this year as the lone returning starter. His experience, both positive and negative, can help the Tigers. Minter has said that the team will use LSU's performance in the BCS National Championship Game as "fuel to burn throughout the season."
As an LSU fan, I'd be happy with a solid season from Minter and the rest of the linebacker group.
More from Patrick Johnston:Chris Faulk, Alex Hurst, Bennie Logan named to 2012 Outland Trophy watch list
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Butkus Award