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Florida running back Matt Jones is tackled by LSU linebacker D.J. Welter and defensive end Danielle Hunte, No. 94, in the first half Saturday. (Associated Press)

Florida running back Matt Jones is tackled by LSU linebacker D.J. Welter and defensive end Danielle Hunte, No. 94, in the first half Saturday. (Associated Press)

Young Tigers learning on the job

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 9:45 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Part of LSU’s defensive awakening against Florida last week was as simple as some young players clicking their heels and admitting, “We’re not in high school anymore.”

That defense, re-tooled after losing eight starters from a year ago, gave up 44 points to Georgia and another 23 points in the first half against Mississippi State.

But since the Tigers have given up just three field goals in the six quarters, including a 17-6 victory Saturday that kept the Gators out of Tiger Stadium’s end zone for the first time since 1979.

Miles has said all along that he “liked” the talent on defense. But with four sophomores and a true freshman starting and with seven or eight more newcomers in key roles, there were going to be some growing pains before LSU could be the physical style of team that was their trademark.

“I don’t think there’s ever been any question we could be that kind of team,” Miles said. “For me, it just appeared that we did the things that we were supposed to do in our assignments, kind of held up our end of the bargain in terms of each player, then allowed many to make plays as opposed to (playing) loose.”

Any player at LSU was a huge star in high school, used to making most of the big plays, often freelancing.

“Any time that you’ve been real quality player (in high school), many times you feel like it’s a play that you need to make and you’re going to try to get there,” Miles said. “But your responsibility is (for instance) outside or your responsibility is to fill across the shoulder of a blocker.

“Sometimes it’s not your play (to make), but it forces your opponent into what is your teammates play (to make).

“That’s an important philosophy on defense — for that matter, offense as well — that you understand that you make when a play when a teammate makes a play that you forced.”

With that apparently understood, LSU held Florida to just 240 yards. After the Gators drove for an opening field goal, LSU forced five straight punts.

Sticking to their own assignments, LSU had nine different defenders credited with the eight tackles for losses against the Gators.

On Monday sophomore Danielle Hunter was named SEC defensive lineman of the week for his seven tackles, including one for a loss, while also batting down two passes.

Both Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis, who Miles said was quite animated in his approval following the game, down-played any “dumbing down” of the defense.

But Miles did say, “We don’t want to try to do too much. We play within the scheme. There will be a lot of plays for everybody.”

The Tigers (6-1, 3-1 SEC) will face a different challenge this week when they travel to play Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3) in Oxford.

While Florida had an inexperienced quarterback and a fairly vanilla attack, the Rebels’ up-tempo, spread-option attack —  quarterback Bo Wallace in particular — gave LSU fits in Tiger Stadium last year before the Tigers prevailed in a 41-35 nail-biter. Wallace threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 79 yards and a pair of scores.

The Rebels are coming off of a similar game in a last-second 41-38 loss to Texas Saturday.

“I like the position we’re in, but we need to continue to improve. This will be a great challenge for us, on the road again, to play of football that we’re becoming accustomed to.”

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