Tigers preparing to face Clemson in Chick-fil-A Bowl
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Ryan Baker's jaw was wired shut. So into the open maw of his first career college start was thrown Lamina Barrow, redshirt freshman, for LSU's 2010 season opener in the Chick-fill-A Kickoff Game against North Carolina.
Instead of shrinking from the challenge of a prime time start at weak side linebacker, Barrow gave himself over to the fearful unknown.
By any standard, it was a promising debut. He had just one tackle, but also recovered a fumble in the Tigers' 30-24 victory.
"It was a growing process for me," Barrow remembered. "I still didn't know all the plays.
"I probably felt more comfortable in that game than I did the next week, but I was all over the place."
Instant success was rather fleeting for Barrow. Despite the broken jaw, Baker returned a week later and held down the starting role for the next two seasons with Barrow relegated to the role of understudy. He made just one more start in 2011 and managed only a combined 35 tackles as a redshirt freshman and sophomore.
Barrow returns to the Georgia Dome, site of his first start in that North Carolina game, for Monday's Chick-fill-A Bowl against Clemson (6:30 p.m. CST, ESPN) again as a starter.
Barrow is eager for the opportunity to go back to the place where for him it all started as a college football player.
"I like the Georgia Dome," he said. "It's kind of like going home. I'm comfortable there."
His comfort comes perhaps from the experience of a man who took the opportunity to start not for a game, but for a season, and by any standard made the most of it.
Barrow is second on the team in total tackles with 93 behind only All-American Kevin Minter, who has piled up 111 stops at middle linebacker. Barrow's five quarterback hurries are the most for any LSU linebacker, and no one had more fumble recoveries or forced fumbles.
"My mindset is to go to practice every day with the goal of getting better every day," Barrow said.
"My first couple of years, these older guys were ahead of me, but now I have the responsibility of being one of the first-string guys and sticking with Chief (defensive coordinator John Chaves), going to meet with him, watching more film. It's helped me tremendously."