LSU Tigers: Florida Gators

LSU poses challenge for Murphy

October, 11, 2013
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Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsTyler Murphy has been a heads-up QB since taking over the starting job.

New quarterback Tyler Murphy has helped lead an offensive turnaround in Gainesville. While Florida has still been heavily reliant on the run, Murphy’s ability to protect the football and convert in key situations has been a huge upgrade over Jeff Driskel. This week Murphy faces his toughest test as Florida travels to face LSU (Saturday, 3:30 ET).

Preventing Negative Plays
One key area in which Murphy represents an improvement over Driskel is in preventing turnovers and sacks. Florida turned the ball over on 25 percent of the drives that Driskel quarterbacked this season while Murphy has just one turnover since taking over the job against Tennessee.

Driskel’s turnovers had a direct impact on Florida’s fortunes. In the Gators’ only two losses over the past two seasons, he turned the ball over seven times.

Before his injury this season, 17 of the 34 points Florida had allowed came off Driskel turnovers, including a pick-six on his final play against Tennessee. Since Murphy took over, Florida has not allowed any points off turnovers.

Over the last two seasons, LSU has scored the second-most points off turnovers in the SEC. The Tigers have been even more efficient this year in converting miscues into scores, increasing their points per turnover forced from 4.1 in 2012 to 5.0 this year.

Driskel has also been very sack-prone, with sacks on nearly 12 percent of dropbacks in his career, the third-worst rate in FBS in that span. Murphy has been sacked on only five percent of dropbacks this year and has not fumbled the ball once.

Converting in Key Situations
Florida has also improved its red zone and third-down production under Murphy. Florida averaged 2.8 points per red zone drive with Driskel this season compared to 5.2 with Murphy. In Florida’s loss to Miami, the Gators managed one touchdown and one field goal in six drives that reached the red zone, as Driskel had more turnovers (3) than completions (2).

LSU has the ability to give Florida trouble inside the 20-yard line. The Tigers have allowed opponents to score a touchdown on only 48 percent of drives reaching the red zone this season, the second-best rate in the SEC.

Murphy has also been more effective on third downs. His third-down conversion rate on passes is 53 percent, 24 percentage points higher than Driskel. Murphy has also converted 11 first downs on the ground, including seven on third down. Driskel ran for just five first downs this year, with none coming on third down.

Murphy’s ability to use his legs goes beyond third downs. He is averaging 5.6 yards per rush, third-best among SEC quarterbacks (min. 10 rushes), and has the highest rate of rushes gaining at least five yards in that group.

While Murphy has been very efficient in a limited sample size, he has not had to face much adversity. Florida has only thrown the ball on 28 percent of its plays since Murphy took over, and it has not trailed in the second half. Against an LSU team that scores over 45 points per game, Murphy may have to handle an increased workload for the Gators to win Saturday.

Best SEC classes by position 

September, 10, 2013
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Top to bottom, the Southeastern Conference is recruiting better than any conference in the country. Thirteen of 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the recruiting rankings, including six schools ranked in the top 10. Here's a closer look at which SEC school has the top recruiting classes at each position.

Quarterback
Strongest class: Alabama
This is the hardest position to determine who has the strongest class. Four of the top-five quarterbacks in the final Elite 11 rankings -- Sean White (Auburn), Kyle Allen (Texas A&M), Will Grier (Florida) and Jacob Park (Georgia) -- are committed to SEC schools. Alabama, however has the top-ranked quarterback, David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) in the ESPN 300. The Under Armour All-American is the 32nd-ranked player in the nation. At 6-foot-5, 241-pounds, Cornwell has a big-time arm and ideal size for the position.

Running back
LSU coach Les Miles doesn't have a problem playing eight SEC opponents every season.

Miles also realizes the Tigers could play nine SEC games in the very near future.

Miles just doesn't think it's fair that LSU has to play Florida every season, while other teams in the SEC West don't.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireUnder the current SEC scheduling format, Les Miles and LSU play Florida every season.
As SEC presidents, athletics directors and coaches convene this week for the league's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., long-term scheduling has become the hot-button issue.

The league is expected to vote whether to change its current 6-1-1 format, in which teams play each opponent from their respective division, along with one rotating foe and one permanent opponent from the opposite division. SEC officials could vote this week to add a ninth conference game or at least eliminate permanent crossover opponents.

The SEC adopted its current scheduling format to ensure that longstanding rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn would survive expansion.

By drawing the Gators as a permanent crossover opponent, Miles believes the Tigers drew the short end of the stick.

Miles won't complain about the scheduling format publicly, but he knows LSU is at a disadvantage.

And Miles is probably right.

"When they give us our schedule, I'm looking forward to having a great competition," Miles said.

Since 2000, LSU has played Florida and Georgia -- two of the SEC East's best programs -- a total of 17 times. Auburn is the only SEC West team which has faced those teams more often, playing them 19 times. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have faced them a total of 10 times each, while Alabama has played them only eight times.

While it's not fair that LSU has faced the Bulldogs and Gators nearly twice as often as Alabama has played them since 2000, Miles' argument might fall on deaf ears. Auburn and Georgia aren't going to surrender the longtime series -- the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has been played 116 times since 1892. Likewise, Alabama and Tennessee have played 95 times since 1901, a game so revered it's named for its traditional place on the calendar, the Third Saturday in October.

And Ole Miss would probably rather play Vanderbilt every season instead of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, and Mississippi State isn't going pass up a chance to play Kentucky every year.

"There's never going to be a fair way," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Aggies drew Missouri as a permanent crossover opponent. "If you look back seven or eight years ago, you would have said the SEC East was the strongest division. You can't say what's fair, because things change in this league. You can't look at tradition. Ten years ago, you might have wanted to play South Carolina. Now you don't want anything to do with them. You don't know what Tennessee is going to do with a new coach. I know Butch Jones is going to do a great job."

Florida-LSU has become one of the league's most anticipated games every season. They've been two of the league's most dominant teams over the past decade. They've combined to appear in seven SEC championship games since 2003, and they've combined to play in nine BCS bowl games, including five BCS national championship games. In their past 10 meetings, LSU and Florida were both ranked in the top 25 of the coaches' poll nine times. Conversely, Alabama and Tennessee were both ranked only once in their past 10 meetings.

The loser of the Florida-LSU regular-season game has paid dearly over the past 10 seasons. LSU's 23-10 loss at Florida in 2006 knocked the Tigers out of the SEC championship game (the Gators defeated Arkansas 38-28 and then blasted Ohio State 41-14 to win the BCS title). Last year, LSU's 14-6 loss at Florida probably cost it a spot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, if not another trip to a BCS bowl game.

Florida's losses to LSU in 2002, '05 and '07 kept them out of the SEC championship game and potentially BCS bowl games.
Get ESPN 150 safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) in any competitive environment and you’ll begin to understand very quickly why he’s so coveted.

Take for example the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp in Allen, Texas, on April 7 when he set the tone in 1-on-1 drills by shoving a wide receiver three yards behind the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball.

Adams, the No. 23 player overall and No. 3 safety, isn’t naming any favorites. But we caught up with him to get a sense for where he stands with a few of the programs generally thought to be in the mix.


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DBs from SEC blanket combine

February, 22, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites took a look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins today in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Click here to read the entire predraft series. Today: Defensive backs and special teams.

LSU Tigers


The obvious acronym for Louisiana State University is "LSU." But to many, the Baton Rouge school gets the title "DBU" for its mass production of NFL defensive backs, from cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne to safeties like LaRon Landry. This draft will do nothing to harm that reputation. Three LSU defensive backs -- including the booted-from-the-team Tyrann Mathieu -- were invited to the NFL combine this week, a year after three (Claiborne, Ron Brooks and Brandon Taylor) were taken in the draft.

(Read full post)

No. 1 sophomore Stone talks offer list 

January, 11, 2013
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MILWAUKEE -- Sophomore center Diamond Stone (Milwaukee/Dominican), the No. 1-ranked prospect in the ESPN 25, and his father, Bob, sat down Thursday evening to discuss how Stone's game is progressing and where they are in the recruiting process.

Not surprisingly for the top player nationally in his class, Stone has an elite offer list a mile long but has a plan and is executing it to perfection.

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2014 LB Kain Daub opening things up? 

October, 10, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN Watch List inside linebacker Kain Daub (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) will likely be one of the top linebackers in the country next year. After the 6-foot-3, 227-pound athlete committed to LSU on July 14, he shut down his recruitment. But now he is thinking about opening things back up.

"My LSU commit is still pretty solid, but I think I'm going to open up the doors up again," Daub said. "Anything could happen, there could be a coaching change and I just want something to fall back on and not just close all doors just because I committed to LSU."

[+] EnlargeKain Daub
Courtesy of Jeff Barlis, GatorNationLinebacker Kain Daub could be one of the top defensive prospects in the class of 2014.
Daub recently transferred from Ponte Vedra (Fla.) Nease to Sandalwood High School and is now playing alongside Alabama defensive end commit DeMarcus Walker. Daub, who has more than 15 offers, said Walker continually tries to get him to switch to Alabama.

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Instant analysis: Florida 14, LSU 6

October, 6, 2012
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It had to be surreal for LSU coach Les Miles to see the events that unfolded Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. That No. 10 Florida upset Miles' No. 4 Tigers, 14-6, wasn't a huge surprise. What was shocking was the way the Gators did it: They beat the Tigers at their own game.

Florida attempted a measly 12 passes for 61 yards and scored only 14 points, forgoing the high-flying offense that has long defined Gators football for a smashmouth, powerful running game and a hard-hitting, opportunistic defense. The Gators looked overwhelmed by LSU for much of the early going but overcame a 6-0 first-half deficit to roar back and make a statement in the SEC pecking order.

Here's how it played out in front of a sold-out Swamp:

It was over when: Just like in the Sept. 8 win against Texas A&M, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel rolled out on third-and-3 and picked up a crucial first down with his feet in the game's dying minutes. Driskel managed just six yards as opposed to his 21-yard run against the Aggies, but it was enough to kill three minutes off the clock and end LSU's chances of a game-winning drive.

Game ball: Florida running back Mike Gillislee. Stop if this sounds familiar: The senior got stronger as the game went on, tallying an absurd 34 carries for 146 yards and both Gators touchdowns. Gillislee had a hard time running against a stout LSU defensive front in the first half, but he kept pounding and wore the Tigers down. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

Game ball, part II: LSU linebacker Kevin Minter. The junior was a one-man wrecking crew on the Tigers' defense, smashing his way to 20 total tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. It's not a coincidence that Florida pounded its way to its first touchdown of the game while Minter was briefly out injured.

Key stat: Take your pick from several telling ones. LSU notched just eight first downs -- three of which were earned via a Florida penalty. A big reason for that was the Tigers' atrocious performance on third down, a horrendous 1-for-13. Meanwhile, the Gators' halftime adjustments were almost breathtaking in comparison. Florida went into the break with 49 yards of total offense and finished the game with 237 yards -- 176 of those coming on the ground. Florida won the possession battle 37:17 to 22:43.

Perhaps the craziest stat of all: After shutting out the Tigers after halftime, Florida has outscored its six opponents 78-13 in the second half this season.

Key play: It looked as if the Tigers had grabbed hold of the momentum when, trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger found wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. open for a 56-yard gain to the Florida 23-yard line. What looked like a huge gain for LSU quickly turned into a momentum swing for Florida, though, as safety Matt Elam stripped the ball and recovered it at the Florida 21. What followed was an 11-play, 77-yard Gators touchdown drive to grab the game-winning 14-6 margin.

What it means: With either Georgia or South Carolina guaranteed to lose tonight, Florida controls its destiny in the SEC East. The Gators leave Florida only one more time this season, which has to make them a contender for the division championship. The Tigers' offensive struggles were concerning while they were still winning games, but the ineptitude on display in Gainesville has to be sounding some panic alarms. LSU still has games against South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State -- all of which boast equally stout defenses. That said, one loss won't sink the Tigers if they can handle their business the rest of the way.

Halftime analysis: LSU 6, Florida 0

October, 6, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- If you want pretty, maybe you should stop watching LSU.

In a defensive slugfest at the Swamp, LSU took a 6-0 lead over Florida to halftime, thanks to a Drew Alleman's field goals of 31 and 22 yards.

It's a game with more combined quarterback sacks (7) than points. It's college football's counterbalance to last week's West Virginia-Baylor game.

Stat of the half: 0, the number of first downs by LSU after its first possession.

Crippled by offensive line injuries and smothered by a much-improved Florida defense, LSU could nothing going on offense, with 17 yards after its first possession and 81 in the half. The Tigers' first possession was a nice, 10-play, 64-yard drive for the 31-yard field goal. After that, LSU was stuck in neutral.

Player of the half: LSU LB Kevin Minter had back-to-back sacks, then stripped Frankie Hammond, a fumble recovered by Kwon Alexander, killing UF's best first-half drive.

Minter had his back-to-back sacks of Jeff Driskel unblocked early in the second quarter.

What's working for LSU: The defensive line for LSU continued to apply pressure to Driskel with five first-half sacks, one forcing a field goal, the other setting up a field goal

The line had three of the five sacks. The other two were aided by UF's preoccupation with blocking the front four.

UF had 47 first-half yards, including a 50-yard drive. Aside from that, the Gators were going backwards. Driskel was sacked just before halftime by Bennie Logan. It was recovered by Barkevious Mingo to set up Alleman's second field goal.

What's not working for LSU: Not much on offense. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been sacked three times and the Tigers have struggled to get much going on the running game. After an initial 10-play, 64-yard drive for a field goal, LSU went six straight possessions without a first down.

The offense finished the half with two freshmen, Vadal Alexander and Trai Turner, playing on the right side of the offensive line after an injury knocked starting right guard Josh Williford out for the game.

Notebook: Copeland returns to work 

October, 4, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- When LSU fullback J.C. Copeland left the Towson game last week with an apparent knee injury, it looked scary.

He didn't put any weight on his knee when he was helped off the field. It was iced and he walked off the field on crutches, putting no weight on the leg. On Monday, Tiger players and coach Les Miles suggested his backup, Connor Neighbors, was about to make his first start.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to the gathered media Wednesday when Miles said that Copeland was not only back at practice, but running with the first team heading into Saturday's game at Florida.

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Five storylines: LSU-Florida 

October, 4, 2012
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Five things to watch Saturday when No. 4 LSU visits Florida.

1. Clean up the Act
LSU has played poorly in two recent wins over Auburn and Towson, plagued by penalties and turnovers. Can the Tigers "flip a switch" against a much tougher opponent, or have bad habits crept in during a relatively soft early schedule?

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles has not been afraid to play true freshmen in his LSU tenure. Generally speaking, his LSU teams have not been in the business of redshirting incoming freshmen.

Even by his standards, however, starting three true freshmen in last week's 38-22 win over Towson was a lot.

Jalen Mills
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireCornerback Jalen Mills is one of several freshmen who have made significant contributions this season.
Of the 59 players who played against Towson, 13 were true freshmen, including starters Jalen Mills (cornerback), Vadal Alexander (right tackle) and Kwon Alexander (strongside linebacker). Also playing a key role was true freshman long snapper Reid Ferguson.

While Mills and Ferguson have played their roles all season, the two Alexanders made their starting debuts and impressed Miles.

Kwon Alexander replaced usual starter Luke Muncie, who was limited to special teams duties because of illness, and finished with four tackles, a forced fumble and a pass broken up.

"I think Kwon Alexander played extremely well for a young guy," Miles said. "I think he plays fast. He certainly wasn't perfect by any stretch. I think he's a guy that will come quickly."

Vadal Alexander started instead of left tackle Josh Dworaczyk as the usual right tackle, Alex Hurst, moved over to left tackle.

"I also agree that [Vadal] Alexander is a guy that has ability that will come. I don't know that his immediate play will be in the same position that Kwon's was."

Dworaczyk said he was working at both tackles spot this week and could play more. Muncie's back from his illness and could return to his linebacker spot.

Even if Dworaczyk, a sixth-year senior, and Muncie, a junior, return to their starting positions, Miles said it's important for the two true freshmen who started last week, and others, to be ready to contribute.

LSU has lost four starters, likely for the season, since August camp for various reasons. In three of the five four, a true freshman has started at least one game since the injury: Vadal Alexander at tackle because the loss of Chris Faulk (knee), Kwon Alexander at linebacker because of the loss of Tahj Jones (academically ineligible), Mills at cornerback because of the loss of Tyrann Mathieu (kicked off team).

"It's imperative that the freshman class contribute," Miles said. "It's a numbers thing for us."

Plenty of playbook left: Miles admitted Monday that there is still a lot of LSU's playbook that fans haven't seen yet. He said if the offense moves the ball consistently, you'll see more wrinkles.

"When you move the ball regularly, you can call a lot of things," he said. "When you aren't hitting on all cylinders, there's an opportunity for you to rein it in because you want to make sure the things that you do are successful."

Miles said that the areas where LSU has struggled to execute -- the passing game, for one, which has had multiple issues -- have had a more limited array of play calls. Another factor, he said, has been a schedule where LSU has had most games in hand early.

"That (additional play calls) is for the future anyway," Miles said. "It was never going to be for those games that you have in hand."

Top 10 tussle: When No. 4 LSU and No. 10 Florida meet Saturday, it'll mark the fourth time in the last seven years when the two teams meet with both ranked in the Top 10.

It happened in 2009 (Florida No. 1, LSU No. 4), 2007 (LSU No. 1, Florida No. 9) and 2006 (Florida No. 5, LSU at No. 9). It never happened in the first 52 games of the series.

 

 

 

DE Greg Gilmore rates Florida visit an 11 

September, 24, 2012
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (Home Mills, N.C./South View) took an official visit to Florida this past weekend. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound four-star tackle said he enjoyed his trip to Gainesville.

"It was great man," Gilmore said. "I had a great time. It was a good game. The defensive front played well and that's really what I'm looking for is the defensive front. The whole defense, the whole offense, everybody played well.

"I talked to the coaches all the time I was there pretty much. They told me I would be a key essential to putting their defense together. They were saying they need more guys -- more guys that are good coming out of high school and more guys that need less development. I mean everyone needs development, but they are looking for guys that can play early."

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LB Kain Daub stands solid for LSU 

September, 11, 2012
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A lot of college football prospects see a drop off in recruitment efforts when they eventually decide on a school to attend. But it's safe to say that hasn't been the case for Kain Daub (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Nease) to this point in his junior campaign.

Daub, LSU's first of three current commitments for 2014, is projected by many to be one of the top defensive prospects in his class when those rankings roll around next year. But plenty of other schools would like to pry his pledge away from LSU, if the number of people calling Daub is any indication.

"Ever since I committed, there's schools I had never talked to that talk to me now," he said. "They talk to me on Facebook because now they can talk to me after Sept. 1."

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DeMarcus Walker: 'It's not over' 

August, 24, 2012
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Four-star DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood) announced his commitment to Alabama Friday afternoon on ESPNU, but the nation's No. 3-ranked defensive end said later in the day that his recruitment is far from over.

DeMarcus Walker
Derek Tyson/ESPN.comTide commit DeMarcus Walker shows off his Alabama gear on the night of his big announcement.
Walker said in an interview with TideNation's Greg Ostendorf despite his commitment to the Tide, he plans to take all five official visits to LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and USC. Noticeably absent was Florida, a school that had been considered one of his leaders for the last several months.

Walker said on Friday after Sandalwood's preseason 29-27 victory over Orlando Evans that he still plans to unnofficially visit Florida this fall.

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