Q&A with Tiger Sports Digest

The Gators and LSU will be in on a gigantic tussle this weekend in Baton Rouge. There are a lot of questions still to be answered for both teams this year. Here is a little insight to LSU with questions from our subscribers to Sonny Ship, the publisher of TigerSportsDigest.com. Sonny was kind enough to take his time to help our readers out.

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: How do you prepare for John Brantley if indeed he does start?
LSU Publisher: There isn't a whole lot of film to study on Brantley, and the film that is out there will not be indicative of what Florida will likely do come Saturday since the outcome of the games he has played in were never in question.

With that said, and putting myself in LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis' shoes, I'd look for Florida to have the same approach regardless of whether Tim Tebow or Brantley plays. If Tebow does play then he will not be the same quarterback as before because you have to think that Urban Meyer will not run him much at all and the majority of passes will be off quick drops and roll outs to avoid having to stand in the pocket long.

While Brantley is a very good pocket passer, starting his first game in Tiger Stadium with the atmosphere and crowd that will be there on Saturday, he needs to get some confidence early on and the best way to do that is by calling some safe, quick passes. LSU hasn't recorded a sack in three games and the last thing Florida needs is for the Tigers to pressure Brantley early and get him rattled where he makes some mistakes.

I don't think you'll see much read-option with either Tebow or Brantley so I expect to see LSU play a lot of zone because the coaches feel that their secondary matches up well with Florida's receivers. In my opinion, however, the only way LSU wins is by getting pressure on the quarterback and that will likely have to be done by blitzing the linebackers since LSU's defensive line hasn't proved that it can get much of a pass rush.

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: How does LSU rate their special teams in terms of both coverage and return teams?
LSU Publisher: LSU's coverage teams are full of athletes with good speed. Opponents are averaging only 16.1 yards a kick return and 7.5 on punt returns with only four punts returned in five games.
On the flip side, LSU is averaging 19.8 yards on kickoff returns and 13.7 yards on punt returns. The punt return numbers are a little misleading, though, because 93 yards were on Chad Jones' punt return for a touchdown against Mississippi State.

Jones is the dependable punt return guy as he is put in whenever there is any concern about field position such as inside their own 20 yard line.

Trindon Holliday, however, is the big-play threat as he can take it the distance any time he touches the ball. There have been some big plays in the return game – Jones against MSU and Holliday's 40-yard kick return that set up the winning touchdown against Georgia. But overall, LSU still hasn't made as many plays as you'd like to see with a guy as fast as Holliday back deep.

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: Why hasn't Trindon Holliday ever really broken out? He was poised to over the last couple years and never seemed to get over the hump.
LSU Publisher: This is a great question and I think it boils down to two factors – size and the fact that he never really focused solely on football.

Sure, Holliday has unbelievable speed on the gridiron, but being just 5-foot-5 and 161 pounds isn't ideal for a running back or receiver at the SEC level. LSU hasn't really ever been able to get him involved in the offense and he bounced around from running back to receiver, while also juggling track.

Florida does a great job of utilizing Brandon James and his size (5-7, 185) makes it a little easier to do some of those things. In terms of track speed, Holliday may have an edge, but in my opinion James has better football speed because the extra weight helps him carry his pads much better.

When you start looking at X-factors for a game like this, you have to look at Holliday and James because of the threat they pose any time they get in space and get in the open field.

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the backup quarterback if Jordan Jefferson goes out?
LSU Publisher: If Jordan Jefferson would get injured then Jarrett Lee would get the call, but you would probably see more of Russell Shepard as well.

Lee started eight games last season, and as I'm sure you've heard or witnessed first-hand when Florida beat LSU last year, he had a problem of throwing interceptions. Not only did he toss 16 picks against 14 touchdowns, but seven of those interceptions were pick-sixes.

Lee hasn't been put in situations this year where he sat in the pocket and threw the ball downfield, but that would be his biggest strength, and you could also say that would be his biggest weakness. He has a good arm, but recognizing defenses were his downfall last year and locking onto receivers. You'd expect that from a redshirt freshman like Lee was last year, but he never seemed to get better at protecting the ball and not taking as many risks.

Shepard may be the most athletically-gifted quarterback in the country, but he has to prove it on the big stage. He's not ready to take over the offense if Jefferson went down, but he would be utilized more because of his running ability.

Quarterback play is going to be critical if LSU is going to pull off the upset on Saturday, but if something happens to Jefferson where LSU loses his dual-threat presence, then things could get ugly with Florida's speed on defense.

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: With the level of talent at LSU, what are the reasons that the scores of all their games have been so close? Is the team playing down to the level of talent on the other side? Is it a lack of motivation or poor coaching?
LSU Publisher: I don't think LSU's lack of success on offense has to do with the team playing down to the talent level of the opponent, of a lack of motivation. I wouldn't say its poor coaching either.

There are some things you'd like to see the offense do a little more such as utilize Russell Shepard's running ability more than four touches a game, and get Trindon Holliday more involved. But I think it's too early to say that it's poor coaching. However, if you're still saying that in December than the coaching gripe will have more legitimacy.

I think the problems on offense have more to do with some changes such as more zone-blocking by the offensive line along with this "check with me" offense, and having a young quarterback who started two games last year and only saw significant action in three games that meant anything.

There really hasn't been one particular thing that the offense has consistently done well this year, and the coaches appear to still be searching for that one thing they can hang their hat on.

The running game was better than it ever has been this season last week in Athens, but to say that LSU is going to be able to run the ball between the tackles to that degree against Florida is a completely different story.

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: Which recruits are visiting LSU this weekend?
LSU Publisher: It's going to be a big weekend for recruiting visits and as of Wednesday morning this is the list we're working with but more names will surely be added before Saturday.

Official Visitors:
Richard Ash
Cassius Marsh
Mike Davis
Evan Washington
Joshua Shaw

Unofficial Visitors:
Trovon Reed ('10)
Pat Swilling, Jr. ('10)
Justin Maclin ('10)
Elliot Porter ('10)
Sam Gibson ('10)
Luke Muncie ('10)
Nick Jacobs ('10)
Jarrett Fobbs ('10)
Churphy Steward ('10)
Ivan Robinson ('10)
Jordan Allen ('10)
J.T. Dickson ('10)
Eric Reid ('10)
Ron Vinson ('10)
Cameron Fordham ('10)
Kevin Wright ('10)
Jabriel Washington ('11)
Jarvis Landry ('11)
Anthony Johnson ('11)
Kenny Hilliard ('11)
Jeremy Hill ('11)
La'el Collins ('11)
Corey White ('11)
Daniel Sams ('11)
Chuck Hunter ('11)
Jermauria Rasco ('11)
Kyle LaMothe ('11)
Johnny Banks ('11)
Rod Davis ('11)
Beau Fitte ('11)

Fightin' Gators Subscribers: How do you take top-10 players like Charles Scott, Brandon LaFell, Terrance Toliver, Russell Shepard (who should be playing WR) and Rueben Randle and produce the 99th ranked offense according to the NCAA given the defenses LSU has played?
LSU Publisher: This goes back to what I touched on earlier with the new philosophy on offense and having a young quarterback.

An ineffective running game has really hurt in the early going, but there were some positive signs last week against Georgia. Charles Scott ran very well and he had some holes to run through.

I agree with you that Russell Shepard should get more looks at receiver and running back, but there is no way you don't give him touches at quarterback in the "Wild Tiger" formation. The guy is too dynamic with the ball in his hands to not get at least 10-12 opportunities a game between quarterback, running back and receiver.

Rueben Randle had two clutch catches against Georgia and don't be surprised to see him as the No. 3 receiver real soon.

There is no denying that the No. 99 ranking is not indicative of the talent that LSU has on that side of the ball, and their average of 321 yards of total offense a game will not produce a victory over Florida.

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