Tiger D packs heat

Published: Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 5, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Florida running back DeShawn Wynn is stuffed by the LSU defense last year at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers lead the nation in total defense and are second in scoring defense.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
In this new defensive age in the SEC, LSU's Bo Pelini is the Steve Spurrier of defensive coordinators.
Pelini's defense is a lot like Spurrier's old Fun 'n' Gun offense at Florida. It is innovative, creative, unpredictable and incredibly productive. Some might say the Tigers are playing a defense that is ahead of its time.
"They're unique," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "That guy (Pelini) does a good job. Some defenses play very base. Kentucky did. Alabama did up until our game (last week). This one is not base. They're all over the place. They're very talented.
"There are only so many field blitzes you can bring and they bring them all. The same from the boundary and the middle. They run every blitz, every concept you can imagine. They're very creative. I'd say they're one of the most creative (defenses).
"Sometimes you play teams that do all that stuff and they're not sound and you can catch them. This team is very sound."
And talented. And fast. The Tigers don't really defend. They swarm, they suffocate, they overwhelm opposing offenses with their speed and relentless style of play.
It's all reflected in the numbers. LSU leads the nation in total defense (193.2 yards a game) and is second in scoring defense (7.4 points a game). In the SEC, the Tigers have the No. 1 pass defense, the No. 2 rushing defense and the No. 1 pass efficiency defense. The also have recorded the most sacks (19) and given up the fewest first downs (61 in five games).
Here's probably the most impressive stat of all: LSU's starting defense has given up only 13 points this season.
"No question, it's one of the best defenses I've seen since I've been in the league," said Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, whose offense was splattered by LSU last Saturday in Baton Rouge in a 48-17 loss. "They have a talented group.
"I know Bo Pelini well. He's very unpredictable. They blitz on any down. They bring zone blitzes, man blitzes. They blitz from the strong side, they blitz from the weak side. They run blitz, they pass blitz. And they play a multitude of coverages. He's done a great job of getting those college kids to learn and execute an NFL-type scheme."
No one seems more impressed than LSU coach Les Miles.
"They are very talented," Miles said. "They are as good a defense as I have been around. They will run and hit you. They have a great scheme and they understand their responsibilities. They are big playmakers on the defensive unit.
"They are as good as I've been around and they're playing that way."
The Gators felt the full wrath of the LSU defense a year ago. Once the LSU offense, which kept UF in the game with five turnovers, gave the Tigers the lead (21-17) with a little more than 12 minutes remaining in the game, the defense punished Chris Leak and the UF offense.
Florida had four possessions in those final 12 minutes and basically went nowhere. In 21 plays, the Gators gained only 27 yards and Leak was sacked twice.
Defensive dominance. Florida will have more offensive playmakers on the field Saturday in The Swamp, but the consensus is LSU's defense is better than a year ago, too.
"They have a phenomenal defense," said true freshman Tim Tebow, who took a recruiting visit to LSU for last year's game. "They are athletic and fast and they make a lot of plays. They play really tight to the line of scrimmage and they swarm the ball.
"You've got to execute (to have success). You've got to stay on schedule and slowly move the ball and not take any penalties or negative plays. If you can do that, you should be OK."
The strength of the LSU defense is the secondary. The Tigers cover so well that it allows the linebackers to crowd the line of scrimmage and blitz almost at will. LSU also blitzes with cornerbacks and safeties.
"This is the best secondary we've faced to date," Meyer said. "Their cornerbacks (Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon) are as good as Alabama's and their safeties (LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels) are better.
"Their safeties are dynamic guys. They've played a lot of football and their numbers reflect that. They have a lot of interceptions and touchdowns."
UF's offense found itself in a mismatch in last year's game. The Gators have more offensive playmakers this season and are hoping they'll have a better chance to have some success Saturday.
"Every week in the SEC you have to be ready to play this quality of talent," UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said. "You've got to go through your plan and follow your plan to win.
"Our job as coaches is to put (the playmakers) in the best position to be successful. The more talented skill guys you have, the more opportunities you have to put them in position to be successful. It's a real challenge. There are not a lot of weaknesses in their defense."
Meyer said the Gators have a better chance than a year ago.
"I feel better about our quarterback position being able to get us in the right stuff," Meyer said. "I feel better about the playmakers around him. I feel much better about it this year than a year ago."
Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com.

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