By ground or by air, Troupe flys high with Gators

Updated: October 9, 2003, 8:04 PM ET

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When it comes to traveling, Ben Troupe hates turbulence.

"I'd rather take my chances on the ground than in the air," he said.

When it comes to football, ground and air seem to work equally as well for the Florida tight end.

Whether he's lowering a shoulder into an oncoming tackler, jumping over a linebacker or rambling into the end zone, Troupe is a wonder to watch.

Midway through the season, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior may be the most talented player on the Florida roster. He has 21 catches for 299 yards and two scores and he is, by every account, a game changer, and an exciting one at that.

"My coaches always say, someone's going to get hit anyway, so you might as well do the hitting," Troupe said.

Last week, Troupe scored Florida's first touchdown against Ole Miss, an 18-yard catch and run during which he hurdled over two defenders and ran over two others.

Last year, he had two similar plays -- one where he bowled over seven Georgia defenders for a 19-yard gain, another in the Outback Bowl where he leapt over a Michigan player en route to a 27-yard gain.

The method to his highlight-reel madness?

"A lot of it is instincts," Troupe said. "Everybody asks me why I do it, but if I can see a guy fixing to cut me, I'm going to jump over him."

Of course, there are other issues to deal with this week. Struggling Florida (3-3, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) plays at No. 6 LSU on Saturday, and Troupe, not a fan of flying, is trying to persuade coach Ron Zook to let him ride over to Baton Rouge on the equipment truck Friday.

Negotiations between coach and tight end were continuing Thursday.

"He's all right," Zook said. "He just doesn't like to bounce around. I don't either, sometimes."

The Gators haven't been this excited about a tight end in a while. Tight ends were never big pass catchers in Florida's offense under Steve Spurrier. That, plus playing as a backup, limited Troupe to only 10 catches over his first two seasons with the Gators.

In Zook's offense, though, he is looked to more often -- at least when it's possible.

In three SEC games this season, Troupe has caught 11 passes for 162 yards. But he has failed to catch a pass in the first half of two of those games -- against Tennessee and Kentucky -- and during the second half against Ole Miss. Florida failed to score a touchdown in all three halves in which Troupe was shut out.

"Sometimes they take him away," offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher said. "You call a play, but it depends on where the coverage is and where it falls. If he's covered, you can't just throw it to the guy."

So, besides figuring out how to get Troupe to the game, the coaching staff's biggest challenge is to devise ways to get him open when the inevitable double coverages start rolling his way.

Troupe doesn't anticipate the offense changing too much to benefit him, however.

"It shouldn't matter who's covering me," Troupe said. "I should just run good routes and get open."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index