by Mark McLeod
When the LSU and
Veteran offensive guard Will Arnold
will miss the next two to three weeks with an ankle injury.
The Tigers offensive line has drawn
criticism for not blowing open holes for running backs Justin Vincent, Alley Broussard, Jacob Hester, or Charles Scott. They're likely to find that road
difficult against a
The Tigers have been very good in pass protection though. They have given up fewer sacks than anybody in the conference. Tucked safely in- JaMarcus Russell has time to hit standout wide receivers Craig Davis, Dwayne Bowe, and Early Doucet . LSU has one of the nation's premier passing games.
"A little bit about LSU," Meyer said. "They have done a great job recruiting. They are loaded. Last year there was no question in my mind that they were the most talented team in the Southeastern Conference. I can't say that yet because we haven't seen all the film on them yet. It's gonna be hard to beat this talent and they lost a lot of guys a year ago. So that kinda tells you how well they've done. It's a great way to evaluate recruiting and they've done a great job of it the last four or five years. They are a very talented team and we are gonna have to play our very best to win this one. I think this is two very good teams going at each other at this time of the year."
The Big Uglies
Last week, senior Ray McDonald
moved back to his defensive end position. Seldom used sophomore Javier Estopinan
(6-1 282) got his first career start for the Gators at defensive tackle. He
recorded three tackles. Estopinan was named to the
Playing alongside Estopinan is
senior tackle Joe Cohen (6-2 296). Signed as a running back out of
The Gators are set at defensive end. Experience coupled with strength, speed, and good quickness on one side. There is tremendous speed and athleticism on the opposite side.
McDonald (6-3 280) has returned from having both knees surgically repaired. The senior appears to be fast approaching his potential. McDonald has 15 tackles, including two sacks, and three tackles for a loss. His leadership has been a boon for the defense.
You can't begin talking about
tremendous quickness, speed, and potential without mentioning the name of
defensive end Jarvis Moss (6-6 251). His first step off the ball is unreal.
Moss' quickness is reminiscent of
Redshirt sophomore Derrick Harvey
(6-5 252) adds a nice blend of speed and quickness off the bench. He doesn't
have Moss' first step, but he can run. However, his experience is even more
limited than Moss.
Weakside linebacker Earl Everett
(6-3 234) is one of the centerpieces to this extremely talented defense. He was
named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his monster play against
Brandon Siler (6-2 235) is one of the Gators tremendously experienced linebackers. Describing Siler is rather easy. The All-SEC selection is simply a great football player who might even be a better leader. He had terrific game against the Volunteers with seven tackles, two for a loss, and a sack. He is currently third on the team with 27 tackles, including five tackles for loss, including a sack, two quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble.
Fifth year senior Brian Crum (6-3
235) mans the strongside linebacker position as a first year starter. Crum has
seen significant action on special teams throughout his career, while playing as
a reserve at tight end moved to linebacker in '03 where he saw very little
action. He played pretty well against
While there is plenty of talent playing behind the linebackers, experience is virtually non-existent. True freshmen Brandon Spikes (6-3 240) and Dustin Doe (6-0 215) have been impressive in practice and are beginning to see playing time off the bench.
The strength of an interior defensive front that was among the best in team history suffered a major blow with the loss of Marcus Thomas. Joe Cohen and Steven Harris are still very good football players. Adding Estopinan has provided the Gators with a quality player and depth against an LSU offensive line that hasn't run blocked well at all. The Tigers who are averaging only 2.46 yards per carry in conference play figure to struggle against the Gators as well.
The numbers certainly bear that out. Opponents are averaging just two yards per carry and 50.2 yards per game rushing against the Gators. That is tops in the conference and fourth best in the nation.
The speed and athleticism at the
defensive end position blend perfectly with
Siler (23 starts) and
LSU has proven to be outstanding when the chips are down. In red zone, they've covered 20 of 22 (90.9%) opportunities with 18 going for touchdowns. The Tigers are fifth in the nation in converting third down conversions at 56%.
Playing the opposite corner is senior Reggie Lewis (5-10 196), who is best remembered for making the play of the game against Vanderbilt a year ago. Lewis has good speed, has improved his cover skills dramatically, and solid hands. Lewis is a former wide receiver who started several games in place of the injured Vernell Brown last year. He has an interception, which he returned for 35 yards. Lewis has also knocked down three passes.
Strong safety Tony Joiner (6-0 208) leads the team with 32 tackles. He also has two tackles for loss, has broken up two passes, an interception, and safety to his credit. The junior packs a wallop. Joiner is a first year starter, who has seen quite a bit of time on special teams and as a reserve.
The most feared member of the
Reserve safety Kyle Jackson (6-1
200) was a starter as a freshman, who struggled last season. However, he is
playing well and figures to be the first man out playing safety when
Fine adjustments by the staff, the
second half fire of the defensive unit, and seemingly some tiring by opponents
Last week, every
LSU seemingly employs the running
back by committee system, which has proven largely ineffective to date, except
in the red zone.
LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell
has made tremendous strides over last year. If given time, he is very dangerous.
They'll have to find ways to pressure him and knock him down when they do. He is
an enormous quarterback at 6-6 252. Disguised coverages worked well at times
The Gators are 13th nationally in total defense. They are currently fourth nationally in run defense. They have given up very few big plays. LSU is one team that will challenge them deep.
Darry Beckwith (48) and Ali Highsmith (7)
Darry Beckwith (48) and Ali Highsmith (7)
by Matt Deville
Remember when people used to live and die by the theory of "defense wins championships."
Well if you listen to the national media these days, you'd think defense wasn't necessary to win a championship. All you have to do is put up 40 points a game and you're considered a national championship contender (see Notre Dame).
Well, they do things a little differently in the SEC.
The so-called experts can dis on the style of football played in the south, but defense is a staple in the SEC – always has been, always will be. That's why it is no surprise that seven of the top 35 defensive units in the country hail from the SEC.
1. LSU – 193.4 ypg
For the LSU Tigers, it is nothing new to be rated among the best defenses in all of college football. After several years under the tutelage of defensive genius Nick Saban, defense is no doubt king in Bayou country.
Many felt like the emphasis on defense would fade when Saban left and Les Miles took control of the program in 2005. However, that was not the case. Miles hired one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the country to assume the reigns of the defensive machine at LSU – and Bo Pelini hasn't looked back.
Fact is, Pelini may even be
outdoing the mighty Saban. Pelini finished his first year in
Through five games this season, the
Tiger defense is surrendering just 193.4 yards per game, that's 21 fewer yards
per game than No. 2 rated
And they're better now?
Senior free safety LaRon Landry thinks so. Landry, who was the starting free safety on that 2003 defense as a true freshman, says the current system allows a player to be more aware of what's going on around them. In the previous (Saban's) system, Landry said each player was assigned one certain duty or area of the field.
The amazing thing about the 2006 LSU defense is that the Tigers lost a pair of all-SEC defensive tackles in Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams. Also gone is Peach Bowl Defensive MVP (defensive end) Melvin Oliver. Two linebackers – Cameron Vaughn and Kenneth Hollis – had to be replaced as well as veteran cornerback Ronnie Prude. In all, five of the front seven on defense are newcomers this year.
As stated above, LSU had to completely re-tool its defensive line replacing a pair of defensive tackle standpoints in Wroten and Williams. Oliver was no slouch either.
At least one of those spots was pretty much locked up because everyone knew Glenn Dorsey was good. ‘But just how good' was the question.
The 6-2, 295 pound Dorsey, known to
teammates "Putt," has grown into a ferocious pass rusher and has become the next
great tackle in a long line of standout tackles – Anthony "Booger" McFarland,
Chad Lavalais, Williams and Wroten. He is second on the team in tackles with 23
total (4 solo, 19 assists). Dorsey has six tackles for loss and two sacks
totaling 15 yards. He was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week following
the Tigers 7-3 loss at
Playing alongside Dorsey is Marlon Favorite. Not the tallest of D-Lineman, Favorite (6-1, 291) is a tenacious run-stopper and has stepped up to the plate as a key player on the Tiger defense.
Chase Pittman was the line returning defensive lineman for the Tigers starring at right defensive end. Playing with a nasty demeanor, Pittman has amazing speed for a player of his size (6-4, 270).
On the other end is Tyson Jackson
While the starters are all playing lights out, it is the Tigers depth across the defensive front that makes LSU's D-Line so scary. Rickey Jean-Francois (6-3, 266), Charles Alexander (6-3, 285), Tim Washington (6-3, 270), Rahim Alem (6-3, 240) and Al Woods (6-5, 325) all will play in the game and there seems to be little dropoff when any combination of these 10 players are in the game.
Another position thought to be in a rebuilding/retooling stage was linebacker. But the LSU backers seem to be one of the strengths of the team.
While LSU lacks little depth at the position, the first teamers are extremely good.
Ali Highsmith (17 tackles) was a star a year ago, but sophomore Darry Beckwith has emerged as the standout this season. At 6-1, 230, Beckwith is the team's leading tackler with 30 stops on the season. He is, no doubt, the team's hardest hitter too.
Luke Sanders is one of the biggest linebackers in the league standing 6-4 and 235 pounds. On the year he has 17 tackles and a sack.
Past the starters, LSU has former fullback turned linebacker Jason Spadoni, who has been a quality sub at key times. Past Spadoni are only true freshman, the only one to see significant playing time in Jacob Cutrera.
THE COVER GUYS
The LSU secondary has been touted as the nation's top unit and you'll get little argument anywhere.
The Tigers are loaded to the gills with depth and talent in the secondary and like the defensive line, Pelini will trot out as many as eight defensive backs in this game.
The LSU secondary all begins with
the safeties, both of whom are all-American candidates. LaRon Landry (6-2, 204)
is the best free safety in the country. A four-year starter, Landry has 18
tackles on the season, one interception and a clock-cleaning sack of
Jesse Daniels (5-11, 203) is a three-year starter at strong safety and plays with equal skill and aggressiveness. Daniels ranks third on the team in tackles with 21 stops.
The corners are locked down by
Jonathan Zenon (6-0, 179) and Chevis Jackson (6-0, 189). Zenon has three
interceptions on the season, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Zenon
was knocked out of the
As stated above, the Tigers depth in the secondary is the strength. The first to come into the game include Daniel Francis (5-11, 183) and Craig Steltz (6-2, 203). Francis will sub at nickel or dime or even can step in at corner. Steltz is a hard-hitting, physical player who will come in at safety. He leads the Tiger team with four interceptions, one in each of the last four games.
LSU leads the SEC in pass interceptions with nine in all. The Tiger defense also leads the SEC in sacks with 19.
LSU defens versus the run:
LSU defense versus the pass:
Leak comes into his senior season