The Florida Gators' defense has been among the best units in the country this season. Their defense is ranked 16th in the country and the Gators are only giving up 99.2 rushing yards per game (12th best in the nation).
While those statistics are great, on Saturday, the Gators’ defense will face its biggest challenge of the season in the LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
In only five games this season, Fournette has 1,022 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The sophomore also is averaging 8.6 yards per carry. Fournette’s lowest rushing total this season came last week against the South Carolina Gamecocks, and he still finished with 158 yards (7.9 ypc) and a touchdown.
So how can Florida slow down Fournette and the LSU rushing attack?
1. Get Multiple Defenders in the Backfield
Florida has played against Fournette before. Last season, Fournette rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in LSU's 30-27 win in The Swamp. If the Gators don’t want that same performance to happen again, they will have to penetrate the Tigers' offensive line before Fournette can get to the second level of their defense.
When Fournette can get past the defensive line untouched, he becomes nearly impossible to tackle in one-on-one situations. Fournette has already recorded multiple runs over 60 yards this season, which includes his 87-yard gain last week against South Carolina.
Florida’s Jon Bullard and the rest of the defensive line will need to get past the LSU offensive line on early downs to force third-and-long situations. Florida is 12th in FBS in tackles for a loss, so these Gator defenders are capable of causing havoc in the Tigers’ backfield.
2. Stay Disciplined
Last season against LSU and Fournette, the Gators were caught out of position, which led to big gains on the ground for the Tigers. Florida defenders have to stay in their assignments and make sure they don’t go for the big hit on Fournette.
In their game against the Tennessee Volunteers earlier this season, the Gators gave up 254 yards on the ground. Florida had problems tackling Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd, who rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
Since that game, the Gators have improved their tackling against Ole Miss and Missouri. Florida has to continue to use the same techniques they have used the last two weeks in order to contain Fournette.
3. Rotate Defensive Players
The teams LSU have played so far haven’t had the luxury of having a deep defensive line and that has shown. As the game has gone on, opposing defensive linemen have gotten tired and that has led to poor tackling. Unlike LSU’s first five opponents, Florida does have the advantage of having a deep and talented defensive line.
Unlike previous seasons, the Gators have been using a different rotation of defensive linemen. This will allow the Florida defense to remain fresh throughout the course of the game on Saturday night.
Gators' defensive line coach Chris Rumph has done a great job of rotating the line for certain situations and against LSU, it shouldn’t be any different.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.