If LSU lines up and plays man-press coverage against Tennessee’s receivers and gets beat, then the Tigers have no one to blame but themselves. That’s a recipe for a big batch of trouble.
It will be intriguing to see exactly how LSU tries to defend the Vols and their vaunted passing attack, which can light up a scoreboard faster than spicy gumbo can scorch one’s tastebuds.
The Tigers, according to Chris Landry of Landry Football, have played man-press coverage about 40-percent of the time this season. It remains to be seen what the Vols and quarterback Hendon Hooker will see when they line up in Tiger Stadium at noon on Saturday, but press coverage will surely be a part of the defensive package.
“You’ll see press-man at times, but you see a bunch of coverage variation from them too,” UT head coach Josh Heupel said during his press conference on Monday. “Hendon’s got to do a great job of identifying the rotations. Our receivers have to do the same thing.
“When it is man-to-man, you have to find a way to go win. You guys have seen us since we’ve gotten here. We’re going to try to put those guys in a position to win, but we also trust those guys to go win in those situations.”
Winning against various coverages hasn’t been a problem for the Vols, despite not having receiver Cedric Tillman available. Tillman suffered a high ankle sprain against Akron and, subsequently, wasn’t available to play against Florida. No problem. The Vols have depth at the position and can manage without any one player.
There’s certainly a chance that LSU could line up and play press, man-to-man coverage against the Vols, but that might not be advisable. Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren is fine seeing press coverage at the line of scrimmage on Saturday – or any day for that matter.
Led by quarterback Hendon Hooker, the Vols are always just a play away from scoring, especially against press coverage. Most would say Tennessee would excel against press coverage. Warren won’t argue that point.
“Yeah, I agree,” Warren said with a smile. “I’ll take our guys over just about anybody right now, the way they’re playing…Hendon has been on the money and he’ll continue to kind of deliver that ball and get it out to us.”
No one is saying that Tennessee’s receivers are far superior than LSU’s defensive backs nor is anyone saying that the Vols will absolutely win that match up. LSU is no slouch. The Tigers are giving up just 184 yards per game passing, which is fifth best in the SEC. However, if LSU relies on man-press coverage against Tennessee, that ranking is likely to drop.