Rebels Preparing For Alabama Ground Attack
Sept. 26, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com

Standing at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough is a gigantic figure to try to bring to the ground. His counterparts, 6-foot-2, 227-pound Najee Harris and 5-foot-11, 221-pound Damien Harris aren’t much easier.

These three comprise a Crimson Tide backfield that has been notorious for wearing opposing defenses down late in games.

Ole Miss is well aware of the difficulty and paramount importance of stopping the running game.

“It’s going to be hard because that man is big,” DeMarquis Gates said. “It’s SEC football. We call came to play.”

The Tide are averaging 303 yards per game on the ground, by far the most in the SEC. Ole Miss will try to combat this fierce attack by giving different looks up front with a lot of gap switching.

“They make you be gap-sound,” defensive line coach Freddie Roach said. “They make you do all of the things that good football teams make you do. We have to control the gaps we need to control, and that is what they do well. If you jump out they make you pay. We have to be consistent in what we do.”

Ole Miss’ run defense struggled in the the first two games of the season, but the team faired much better at Cal two weeks ago and is looking to build off of that success.

“I think we just emphasized it more,” Roach said. “When you have guys that are used to running up the field it is tougher, and that was one of the things we had to get accomplished here was to get better stopping the run.  Every week we have gotten a little better. We just need to improve on that.”


 

 

The noticeable difference against Cal was the tackling. The Rebels did a better job of populating the football and wrapping up once they got there. They didn’t allow the running back get into the second and third levels of the defense.

“We just had to put our mind into a little bit more,”  Gates said. “We just worked on it and did more tackling drills.”

Scarbrough’s stature naturally makes him a physical back and his speed is that of someone 20 pounds lighter. When he comes out of the game, Damien and Najee Harris do not provide much of a let down and really a unique challenge in their own right.

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has done a nice job preserving each back. Their carries are split pretty evenly with Scarbrough leading at 44 and Damien Harris behind him with 38. Najee Harris has 30.

“Bo is a big, physical kid that can run,” Roach said. “He can run like he is 205 and Harris does as well. He is not as big as Bo but he is elusive as well. We have got to get those guys on the ground.”

Ole Miss be tasked with containing them for four quarters in an offense that has yet to turn the football over.

“I call it doing your one-eleventh,” Gates said. “We are all going to make mistakes, but you have got to be able to problem solve and fix them. If you do mess up, just make sure it is one play. We can’t have many mistakes. That is what they take advantage of, you make a mistake on Alabama and they will hit you with a touchdown.”

Neutralizing Alabama’s running game is a daunting task the Rebels face. It is just one piece of the puzzle. Quarteback Jalen Hurts’ 64.2 completion percentage and 149.14 passer rating are proof of that. But containing the trio of backs on the ground will go a long way in determining the Rebels’ fate on Saturday night.

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.

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