Dandy defense

Gainesville product Will Muschamp is in his second year as defensive coordinator at LSU

LSU linebacker Lionel Turner and the Tigers defense allow just 58.2 rushing yards per game, while averaging three sacks as well.

The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, October 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 11, 2003 at 1:46 a.m.


The Muschamp file

  • 1991-94: Letterman at safety for Georgia
  • 1995-1997: Graduate assistant at Auburn
  • 1997: Outside linebackers coach at Jacksonville State
  • 1998: West Georgia secondary coach
  • 1999: Eastern Kentucky secondary coach
  • 2000: Valdosta State defensive coordinator
  • 2001: LSU linebackers coach
  • 2002: LSU defensive coordinator

  • BATON ROUGE, La.- In recent years, LSU has boasted some of the nation's top defenses.
    Much of the reason for that comes from having players like former linebackers Bradie James and Trev Faulk, who were Butkus Award semifinalists and first-team All-SEC performers in 2001. Even more credit likely belongs with coach Nick Saban, who has earned a reputation at various locations for his aggressive, defensive-minded approach.
    But also deserving praise is a 32-year-old who spent his early years growing up in Gainesville a huge Gator fan.
    Will Muschamp has been with the Tigers three seasons, spending the first as linebackers coach - where he tutored James and Faulk, among others - before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2002.
    In his first year on the job, LSU finished second in the SEC and eighth nationally in overall defense (allowing 286.8 yards a game, including a conference-best 152.7 against the pass) and 15th nationally in scoring (18.3 points a game). Among the bigger feats the Tigers accomplished last season was holding the Rex Grossman-led Florida offense to 237 yards in a 36-7 victory in The Swamp, only the second win in the last 15 tries LSU has against the Gators.
    "That was a big confidence-builder," Saban said. "Going into a place like that and holding them like we did said a great deal about what we are trying to do."
    The sixth-ranked Tigers (5-0, 2-0 in the SEC) enter today's 3:30 p.m. meeting with UF (3-3, 1-2) allowing 256 yards a contest while surrendering just 58.2 rushing yards a game. They average three sacks and two interceptions an outing, and have allowed opponents to score 10 total points in the first three quarters all season.
    Granted, those numbers are a bit skewed, as Georgia (17-10 losers to LSU on Sept. 20) is the only team the Tigers have faced so far that has a winning record. But it's hard to dispute LSU has one of the nation's top defenses - and Muschamp said he thinks Florida will provide a quality test for his unit.
    "They have a lot of good athletes," said Muschamp, a two-way starter for the Oak Hall football team as a seventh- and eighth-grader in 1984 and '85. "The Gators are the Gators. They have a ton of speed at wideout. Ran Carthon and DeShawn Wynn are two of the best backs you'll see, and their backups are good, too - shoot, we tried to recruit all of them.
    "(Chris) Leak is a good decision-maker who gets the ball to the right places. He's going to be really good. It's tough to be a freshman quarterback in this conference, and I think it says a lot about him that coach (Ron) Zook trusts him with that role.
    "And that tight end (Ben Troupe), he's as good as any in the country. I've watched him take over games. He's something else."
    Muschamp added that today's game will go a long way in helping him understand what his defense is doing well and what it needs to improve upon, but it is just one of 14 potential tests.
    "We had a lot of questions at the beginning of the year, and we're starting to answer some of those," said Muschamp, an Academic All-SEC honor roll safety for Georgia in 1993. "We still have some suspect areas, but we've pretty much gotten good play all year, particularly from our front four and our secondary.
    "Still, the measure of success is consistency. Everybody can rise up for one game, but doing it week-in, week-out is what you want to achieve.
    "Take what coach (Steve) Spurrier did at Florida for 12 years. Every year, every game, you knew they'd be ready to play, and they won almost every time out.
    "That kind of success is what we strive for."
    You can reach John Patton by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at

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