Torbush previews LSU game

Like most veteran coaches, Tide Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush has been known to use some colorful language. And he sees Saturday's showdown between Alabama and LSU as nothing less than a dog fight. "You're talking about two dogs," Torbush said. "And I say that in a positive manner--we've both been bitten. Just like us they've lost some close ball games."

An SEC West title and a trip to Atlanta's Georgia Dome for the conference championship game are shared goals. But after seven games both squads are saddled with three conference losses, meaning that neither team can afford to lose again. "This will be a big game for both teams," Torbush said. "It'll be interesting to see how we respond and how they respond. But this is a game that is very important. It will be a big challenge for our defense, because they're so good on offense."

Like Alabama, the Tigers have dropped three tough conference games. After being overmatched earlier in the season against Florida and Tennessee, LSU suffered its own fourth-quarter swoon in losing last week to Ole Miss. But the Bayou Bengal Tigers are dangerous on offense, ranking third in the conference in both scoring and total yardage. Torbush commented; "Athletically, on offense they're very explosive. They're averaging about 450 yards a game and over 300 yards a game passing."

Taking over a squad made up almost entirely of athletes recruited by other coaches is tough, but Carl Torbush is determined to put his mark on the Alabama defense.

At receiver, LSU is both talented and deep. Junior Josh Reed leads the SEC in receiving yards per game and is barely second in total receptions. The dangerous Jerel Myers starts on the other side. But true freshman Michael Clayton, who made the ESPN highlight reels this past weekend with an incredible TD grab versus Ole Miss, could be the best of the lot.

Torbush explained; "Those three kids remind me a lot of the UCLA receivers. They're tall, athletic guys that can jump up and make plays. They run well after the catch, and they don't drop many balls. They're not feast or famine, they protect the ball. They've made some great catches. We've got to be able to cover well."

But it's senior Rohan Davey that sparks the Tiger engine. He accounts for 259 yards per game through the air (fourth in the SEC), and his 10-to-4 touchdown to interception ratio is impressive. "They've got a big-time quarterback, and he's got a rocket," Torbush said. "He's got as strong an arm as I've ever seen. He's throwing the ball 60 yards in the games.

"I bet if they would just see how far he could throw it, then he could throw the ball 80+ yards. I don't have a doubt in my mind he can throw it that far."

Beyond his obvious arm strength, Davey is a quarterback trapped in a linebacker's body. Numerous times versus Ole Miss he was hit in the backfield, only to come free to make the pass. Breaking arm tackles consistently, Davey can make smaller players look foolish. And there are times when he delivers the ball downfield literally as he's been pulled to the ground.

"He's awful hard to get down," Torbush said. "You can get three or four guys on him, and he's still capable of throwing the ball down the field 30 or 40 yards. He's awesome, truly phenomenal.

Under Torbush's direction, the Tide defense spends time every day working on the fundamentals of tackling.

"We've got to do a great job getting pressure and getting some heat on him. If you give him time to throw it, then he'll find somebody."

At running back, Labrandon Toefield is LSU's best tailback, averaging 75 yards per game, but he's been slowed with an ankle sprain. Sophomore Devery Henderson is also very good, but he too has been nicked up. Junior Dominick Davis (who also plays in the secondary) did most of the damage on the ground versus Ole Miss. "I don't know about the running back situation," Torbush said. "They've got good running backs, and if they're healthy then they're real good."

Bama fans like to brag about Terry Jones Jr., but the Bengal Tigers have a long tradition of outstanding tight ends. And this season is no different. Torbush explained; "Their tight ends are excellent. Their starting tight end (Robert Royal) will be a draft choice this year. And they've got more than one."


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