Best yet to come for LSU's defense?

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Remember that LSU defense that had a chance to be even better than the unit that helped bring a national championship to Baton Rouge a year ago?

Four games into the 2008 season, nobody's ready to go there, even the players.

At least, not yet.

"We've been playing OK," LSU senior defensive end Tyson Jackson said. "There are still a lot of things we can improve on, starting up front with us and with our linebacker corps. We need to get to the quarterback more and cause more problems in the backfield."

The No. 3-ranked Tigers have been good enough on defense to carve out a 4-0 record. But they also haven't played an offense that will come close to testing them the way Florida will on Saturday night in the Swamp.

Auburn's offensive struggles have been well-documented, while Mississippi State is tied for 114th in the country in scoring offense. Neither Appalachian State nor North Texas had the personnel to test the Tigers.

So in other words, we really don't know how good this LSU defense is.

"These are the kind of games you find out a lot about yourselves," Jackson said.

A quick check of the SEC statistics reveals that the Tigers are hovering around the middle of the pack in most defensive categories.

A year ago, they led the SEC in total defense and were third nationally.

In each of their last two games, they've given up some long touchdown drives late, as well as some big plays. Experience at cornerback is a concern, but Jackson said the responsibility lies on the whole defense.

"We've blown some coverages, but we've also blown some calls up front," Jackson said. "There's a lot we can improve on at this point and a lot we need to improve on against a team as explosive as Florida. This is one of those games where if you don't step it up, you're going to be in trouble."

The Tigers are near the bottom of the SEC in sacks and interceptions. They've sacked opposing quarterbacks just six times in four games and have picked off three passes.

The best news for the LSU defense is that senior middle linebacker Darry Beckwith will be back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury. Beckwith is the Tigers' enforcer in the middle and the kind of player that generates some of the big plays they've been missing.

"We still think we're one of the best defenses in the country and trying to take it week by week," Beckwith said. "We just want to improve every time we go out, and I think we'll be better in this game than we have in any of the other games."