Saban addresses thinning CB depth

LSU head coach Nick Saban acknowledged that the performance of his secondary could have been better against Tennessee, but he says it wasn't the only reason for the Tigers' 26-18 loss.

Heading into Saturday's game against Florida at Tiger Stadium, Saban not only has to concern himself with improving the play of his corners but also a lack of depth at the position. Senior Robert Davis re-aggravated the knee he injured against Utah State in Tuesday's practice. Joining him on the questionable list is junior Norman LeJeune, who Saban said is suffering with a neck injury and wouldn't be available, Saban explained, until he stops feeling pain.

In Wednesday's practice, Saban worked with junior safety/nickel back Damien James at cornerback and took aside sophomore wide receiver Corey Webster and freshman running back Ryan Gilbert for some one-on-one instruction.

"We're close to being in an emergency situation at that position," said Saban. "We really only have two guys who are eligible to play at that position. We talked to Ryan Gilbert and Corey about playing their position as well as trying to get acclimated over the next couple of weeks. If we did lose somebody else, they would have some idea, at least a background to start with, to be able to go out and play."

Sophomore Randall Gay is the next cornerback on the depth chart following the starters, sophomore Erin Damond and junior Demetrius Hookfin. James would likely be the next behind Gay to play the position if needed, Saban noted.

Webster, who played quarterback at St. James High School, was recruited as a defensive back but expressed an interest in playing wide receiver at LSU. Saban said he has performed well at receiver but was open to helping out at corner.

"I don't like to make guys play what they don't want to play," said Saban, "but he was a good team guy when I talked to him about the fact we were getting kind of thin. He said he'd be glad to try and work at it and try to do both."

When asked if he was considering any other players at corner, Saban said he and his staff have considered every possibility and determined the best players for the position.

He added the fact that LSU is experiencing difficulties at cornerback should not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the Tigers and was aware of the team's question marks heading into the 2001 season.

"I got some questions on Monday like this (the problems at corner) was a surprise," he said. "The two concerns going into spring practice last year were corner and offensive line. Those were the first two things that got exposed against the first good football team we played against.

"And the situation in the secondary is worse than when we started because the guy with the most experience is not playing – Robert Davis. When he started playing for us last year, he provided stability and we started playing better."

In terms of his team's overall preparation for the Florida game, Saban said the Tigers are having a good practice week and has seen their collective attitude bounced back well after the loss to Tennessee. The intangibles of Saturday's game fall in favor of LSU, he believes, and playing a physical, aggressive in the right frame of mind will be a key for the Tigers.

The main concern Saban said he has with Florida's offense is its versatility. Although head coach Steve Spurrier has gained famed through his pass-oriented Fun-n-Gun offense, the Gators have been able to run the ball successfully with the tandem of Earnest Graham and Robert Gillespie at running back. 

"That's the biggest problem with Florida," said Saban. "They can run the ball. If you sit back and play the game to play (the receivers), they're going to be running up and down the field."

LSU and Florida meet at 2:30 p.m. in a game that will be nationally televised on CBS. Fans are encouraged to arrive earlier than they would have in the past for an afternoon game to allow for security measures at Tiger Stadium.

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