Gators Must Be Very Cognizant Of Skyler Green

With so many weapons at his disposal, one of the chief problems in the coaching life of LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is trying to distribute the ball in a way that makes everybody happy. He's got excellent running backs and tall, fast wide receivers along with a Tyrone Prothro clone in Skyler Green, a 5-9 lightning bolt looking for a place to strike. Fisher's many weapons are this week's nightmare for Florida co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison.

From a personnel standpoint, LSU may have more offensive weapons than any team in the Southeastern Conference. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 881 yards and five touchdowns. In running backs Joseph Addai (381 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Justin Vincent (135 yards, 5.0 per carry), he has two very fast tailbacks with decent power. Vincent was the most valuable player in the national championship game against Oklahoma two years ago. Early Doucet (14 catches, 227 yards, 2 touchdowns), Dwayne Bowe (10 catches, 184 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Craig Davis (9 catches, 130 yards) are big receivers with the speed to go deep.

And then there is Skyler Green, a do-everything type who runs (16.3 yards per carry), catches (17 receptions), returns punts (15.5 per return) and runs back kickoffs (23.2 average). Green is so good that Florida Coach Urban Meyer says "I think the key to this game is containing Skyler Green. He is a lot like Tyrone Prothro and is a game changer."

LSU's offensive game plan is to distribute the ball to the playmakers, but keep things within a 60-40 run to pass mix. That approach allowed the Tigers to rush for 2,326 yards and throw for 2,421 in 2004. Through four games this season, the Tigers have 160 rushing attempts and 118 passes. The Tigers are averaging 163.2 yards per game rushing and 220.2 per game passing.

The many diversions of LSU's offense can't be attacked with the same scheme time and time again. Florida prefers to play wide receivers straight man to man, but that's not going to be possible this week according to Meyer.

"This kind of game you have to mix it up," he said Tuesday after practice. "To just say you're leaving them [corners] out on an island … this kind of team you can't do that against."

So the Gators will be trying to do something more successfully Saturday against LSU than they did two weeks ago against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In Alabama, Florida faced a team with a similar offensive philosophy and Florida's scheme was to mix the zone in with the man coverage.

On paper it all looked so good. In reality, the Gators gave up three touchdowns, two of the long variety, against a cover-3 zone. Alabama did get some plays against Florida's man to man coverage, but no touchdowns and certainly not the big plays. Alabama had success reading zone coverage and getting the ball in the hands of Prothro. When Florida goes zone against LSU, the Gators are going to have to make certain there aren't the same mistakes that allowed Prothro and Keith Brown to score on long bombs from Brodie Croyle.

Meyer is aware that Green could cause the same problems for the Gators that Prothro caused.

"He's a dynamic player," said Meyer. "When you watch film of playmakers, if there are three guys around, he gets through it. I think he and (Tyrone Prothro) from Alabama are two as good as I have seen."

The second problem with the zone is that it's more vulnerable to the running game. LSU would love nothing more than to pound the Gators into submission by hammering the ball between the tackles.

"The chess match is going to be because they're such a good running team and if you play a seven man front you're a gap short and so that's obviously when teams like to run," said Meyer. "When you're in zone coverage is when you want to play cover-two."

Playing man to man coverage leaves the corners one on one against the wide receivers with little help from the safeties but it allows more pressure stopping the running game.

"If you want to play man, you can sink eight in the box and it's all one gap defense," he said. "Obviously, we're a one-gap defense but that leaves you on the island."

For Florida to come up with defensive stops, the Gators will have to play both zone and man coverage, but more importantly, disguise the defensive fronts in such a way that LSU won't know what's coming.

"We're going to have to rotate in and out [of zone coverage] and play tendencies throughout the course of the game. That's where you try to watch on first down what they have been doing, on second down what they have been doing. If they've been throwing a bunch you play a little zone and if they run, you gotta rally up and hope someone can make a play."

Another problem for Meyer is to find ways to get Reggie Nelson in the game. Nelson plays the nickel position and he is Florida's most disruptive defensive player. However, the way LSU plays its offense --- usually with a tight end, a fullback and two wide receivers --- it's more conducive to stay in a straight 4-3.

"We're going to have to find a way to get him [Nelson] in there," said Meyer. Nelson could see some action at corner or at linebacker in an attempt to get him on the field where he can be a real force.

INJURY UPDATE: Chris Leak was not limited in the number of throws he could make. He was seen staying late after practice to work on some routes with wide receiver Chad Jackson.

Meyer said that Leak's shoulder has responded well to treatment. Jackson, who left Saturday's game with a sore knee, was examined and it was determined that he did not have a meniscus tear. He will be able to go full speed Saturday.

Jemalle Cornelius was running on Tuesday but he didn't go through any heavy work. Meyer said that will change on Wednesday. Meyer also said Mike Degory will be fine even though he has a bad ankle and an ongoing problem with his MCL.

Tailback DeShawn Wynn, who saw only limited action against Mississippi State due to a dinged up shoulder, will be practicing this week and Meyer thinks he'll be good to play on Saturday.

There was no indication if defensive end Ray McDonald will be given the go-ahead for Saturday's game although he was seen working out in shorts and shoulder pads. McDonald is recovering from a torn meniscus, some cartilage damage and a partially torn ACL that required surgery after the Tennessee game. Meyer said that McDonald is still targeted to return to action in the Georgia game in three week. The coach was happy to see his multi-talented defensive end back on the practice field, though.

"It was great to see him," said Meyer. "It was the first practice he's had with shoulder pads on but he did a lot of individual work and actually had some contact with the sled and doing those kinds of things."

McDonald's work load will be increased on a daily basis to determine when and where he will return to the lineup.

"I'm going to check with him and if it [knee] doesn't swell, we'll just keep increasing his activity. We're just watching him closely and trying to get him in game shape."

BLOODY TUESDAY: Instead of Bloody Tuesday, with full contact and scrimmaging, the Gators were in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts Tuesday afternoon. The change in practice planning was to help save Florida's legs going into a game with a team that has so much speed.

"It's because of fresh legs," said Meyer. "We better be at A1A speed on Saturday. We had a long practice but we just took the pants off of them today."


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