Option just one of Alabama's choices

Alabama has averaged over 400 yards of offense per game and better than 28 points, but late collapses have haunted the team of first-year coach Dennis Franchione to the tune of a 3-4 record this season. A key to the Crimson Tide's offensive effectiveness this season has been the use of the option and the success quarterback Tyler Watts has had running it. But the option is – well – just one of the options Franchione's team has employed this season.

The task in front of LSU, which faces Alabama this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Tuscaloosa, is to mount a defense that can answer he Tide's multi-pronged attack.

"What Alabama does is a little bit different," LSU head coach Nick Saban explained. "They utilize a lot of formations and run the quarterback in a lot of different ways. It's a good concept and (defending them is) a little bit more than stopping the option."

Heading into its game with LSU, Alabama ranks 6th nationally and 38 nationally in total offense, averaging 408.4 yards per game. The Tide leads the Southeastern Conference and is 16th nationally in rushing with 1,539 yards. Passing the ball, Alabama is 11th in the SEC and 77th nationally with 188.6 yards per game.

Watts became the first quarterback in Alabama history to run for over 100 yards in three consecutive games, averaging 8.5 yards per carry in that span. He is currently only 42 yards behind the Tide's leading rusher, Ahmaad Galloway, with 470 going into the LSU game. 

"(He's dangerous) because of his ability to run, his toughness. The guy dives over people and lands on his head," Saban said. "Those types of intangibles can really get the people around you to play hard and play with the same kind of toughness. I think his character and leadership shows forth on the entire offensive team in terms of the way they compete in the game. And they've got some outstanding skill people to go with him."

Several members of the LSU staff, including Saban, have seen the version of the option offense Alabama uses, but no one is more familiar with it that defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. The former Oklahoma player, assistant and head coach was part of a team that relied heavily on the option and had to defend it at least once a year when playing Nebraska.

"To have people on your staff with a background in it and an understanding of the offense is very beneficial," said Saban, who saw the option when his Michigan State teams played Notre Dame.

Stopping the option largely depends on how well linebackers and defensive backs can contain the edge and whether or not the defensive line can pursue the quarterback when he has the ball. But as far how Alabama's use of the option will affect LSU's overall defensive philosophy, defensive tackle Chad Lavalais says the game in the trenches pretty much remains the same.

"It's going to be a manhood check this game," Lavalais said, "just getting down and playing ball."

PRACTICE UPDATE: The Tigers started their practice week in light gear on Tuesday after taking Monday off. Running backs LaBrandon Toefield, Domanick Davis and Devery Henderson watched from the sidelines, as did safety Lionel Thomas and offensive lineman Rob Sale. All suffered ankle injuries and are currently questionable for the Alabama game.

In the absence of the first three running backs, Joseph Addai and Derron Parquet saw the majority of the repetitions with the offense. With Sale unavailable, Ben Wilkerson played center with Stephen Peterman at left guard and Dwayne Pierce at right guard.

Thomas' absence in the secondary put Norman LeJeune, whose action against Ole Miss was his first since before the Tennesse game, at strong safety.

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