January 5, 2008

Duck and cover

NEW ORLEANS-Chad Henne[db] saw it too late and the next thing he saw was the sky when [db]Vernon Gholston ran right through him. It is a nightmare for any quarterback to see the 6-foot-4, 264-pounder barreling down and shedding the block of the offensive tackle.

It will be on Ciron Black and Carnell Stewart to keep Gholston out of the backfield and more importantly quarterback Matt Flynn upright and unscathed. That may be an easier task said than done.

"Vernon Gholston is a tremendous player, a very athletic man," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "Obviously he's a thinking player. Appears to know the formation, knows the personnel and makes very wide and discerning decisions. An awfully talented man."

The Buckeyes moved Gholston from side to side during the Michigan game and kept the all-Big Ten defensive end away from all-America tackle Jake Long during chunks of the game. Will Flynn make it a priority to know where Gholston is at all times regardless of the down and distance?

"Absolutely," Flynn said. "He's a great player. It is just one of those things that you have to be focused on where he is because he does different things on the defense besides rush so you have to be keyed in on him."

While focus has to be paid to Gholston with his 13 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss the Tigers can't cut of their collective nose to spite their face. James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman have 198 tackles between them and would love nothing more to be forgotten about and be able to make game changing plays.

"We're going to know where the defense lines up," Miles said. "There will be some scrutiny to (Vernon Gholston). There's some other things going on out there, (their) linebackers are pretty good. At the time you stop looking… that secondary starts making plays. We're going to have to - as talented as he is, we're going to have to pack the entire defense."

With the Tigers giving up 29 sacks on the season (good for No. T-72 in the nation) there is definitely the opportunity for the Buckeyes to get their licks in on Flynn. The Buckeye defense has been as aggressive as ever this season even prompting one Big Ten offensive coordinator to comment about Ohio State having more blitz packages than anyone in college football. How will the Tigers prepare for a defense that does such a great job of disguising coverages?

"It is one of those things that you are fortunate to have a couple weeks to prepare for," Flynn said. "I don't even know if that is enough time to pick up all their blitzes because they do so many things and bring so many blitzes out of so many different looks."

Film study will only go so far for the Tigers and the team knows that just because they see something once that it doesn't mean they will see it again.

"It's never the same blitz so we are going to have to pick it up and just be very mentally into the game and it is all going to be all recognition of defenses," Flynn said. "If we can get that down and get mentally focused for the game and execute then I think we will have a chance."

The argument has been made that Ohio State's defensive stats (No. 1 scoring, No. 1 passing, No. 3 rushing, No. 1 total) have been aided by playing in the Big Ten and having played a relatively easy schedule. Buying into that or not is left up to debate but not when it comes to the Tigers who know that the Buckeyes are poised to be the biggest challenge of the season for them.

"I know that they are extremely good this year," Flynn said. "They are the No. 1 defense in the country for a reason. I have watched a lot of film on them and they are big, tough, fast and can really play defense. They play well together and play their schemes well. They take chances at smart times and will take chances in blitzing you but it is all done very timely and do it at the right time. It is a very tough challenge for us and probably the toughest challenge that this offense faced this year."


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