Tough Tigers

Matt Flynn isn't one of the SEC's most talented quarterbacks. Nor is Jacob Hester one of the league's most talented tailbacks. Still, they have led LSU into today's SEC Championship Game with Tennessee.

Both players offset in toughness what they lack in raw talent, and that has earned the grudging respect of the Vols' defensive coordinator.

Flynn has shown considerable grit in playing through an assortment of injuries this season. John Chavis describes him as "a tough, physical guy that throws the ball extremely well. He's got a lot of talent around him but I'm impressed with him."

The coordinator is just as impressed with Hester, a 6-0, 230-pound bruiser who has carried the Tigers' rushing attack the past month. He's about as flashy as a lump of coal but he runs with a determination that few can match, regularly getting the tough yards and the crucial first downs. He ran for 126 yards last weekend against Arkansas.

"When you see 15 (Flynn) and 18 (Hester) you're talking about two great competitors," Chavis said. "If you didn't have to play 'em, you'd love to watch 'em compete. But we've got to get ready to play 'em, so it's a little bit different for us."

Hester has 897 yards to date, so he could cross the 1,000-yard barrier with a good game today. Backups Keiland Williams (424 yards, 6.7 per carry) and Charles Scott (318 yards, 7.4 per carry) are also productive. Then there's LSU's change-of-pace back, Trindon Holliday, a 5-5, 160-pound speedster who is one of the most electrifying players in college football.

"A guy like that can break a game open at any time," Chavis said. "They like sending him back across in motion, running the speed sweep. It'll stretch a defense a long ways. It's just another dimension you have to defend."

Preparing for a team that plays four tailbacks is no simple task, especially when all have different strengths and different styles. The Tigers also have a potent passing attack that features Flynn and a trio of standout receivers. Early Doucet, who has missed four games due to injury this season, might be the best receiver in college football when he's healthy. Brandon LaFell (45 catches, 576 yards) and Demetrius Byrd (29 catches, 521 yards, 18.0 per-catch average) also are dangerous targets.

Clearly, LSU is one of the most balanced offenses Tennessee will face all year.

"That creates problems," Vol head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "That's what WE want to do offensively ... when you're balanced enough to be two-dimensional. Arkansas was one-dimensional and we took that away from them for the most part. When you have balance, it gets tougher to defend."

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at The Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with television coverage provided by CBS.


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