It's not much of a sample size, only two games, but some things don't seem to change.
Alabama is only allowing 43.5 yards per game to opponents attempting to rush the football. That's tops in the Southeastern Conference, a normal spot for the Crimson Tide’s run defense.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss is 12th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 120 yards per outing.
Despite those glaring numbers, Rebel RB Akeem Judd believes Ole Miss can generate a run game when it takes on the Crimson Tide Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Before anyone guffaws at that thought, Judd isn’t suggesting a 300-yard rushing game. No, he just has faith the Rebels can muster enough run game to keep the Alabama defense honest, which was not the case against Florida State in the opener, where Ole Miss rushed for a paltry 67 yards on 25 carries.
“The way we run our scheme, I think it's going to open up a little bit,” Judd noted. “We're going to try to do some things and see how it goes. This is a team where you can't just be one-dimensional. You’ve got to open it up, and I think we're going to do some great things on the ground as well as in the air.”
The Rebel running back group has been depleted by two since August with Jordan Wilkins being declared academically ineligible and Eric Swinney tearing an ACL after one carry versus the Seminoles, which leaves Judd, Eugene Brazley, D.K. Buford and freshman D'Vaughn Pennamon. Only Judd has played much during his career.
“I really don't feel too much pressure,” he said. “I just go out there play and try to do the best I can. That's what everybody looks for. Even when those guys were there, they wanted to be the starter. Getting all the carries and whatever. I'm just stepping up. Next man up.”
Judd has been willingly thrust into being the leader of the running back. That was Wilkins' job back in the spring, but it's hard to lead from the bench. Judd has assumed the role.
“D.K. and D'Vaughn haven't really had many reps in the game, so I try to stay on them and try to keep those guys comfortable for when they do get their chance,” Judd allowed.
Due to his experience, Judd expects a lot of reps this week against Bama, but he's ready for whatever.
“However it goes, I'm prepared for the outcome,” Judd noted. “Just be ready for when your name is called. You never know obviously from the situation that just occurred. You never know what can happen, so just be ready. Just be prepared. Always work hard in practice because you never know.”
Judd said one of the factors in Ole Miss' favor is going against the Rebel defensive line every day.
“We have a big front,” stated Judd. “It really does help going against Alabama's line because you're really not going to see too many guys like Alabama's line.”
In watching film of the Tide's front, he has detected a difference in style, which is also similar to Ole Miss.
“Last year, they were more of a hold-up type of group up front,” Judd continued. “This year, I feel like they've slimmed up a little bit and kind of got a little bit finesse. I think we have a mix of that with Breeland (Speaks) and D.J. (Jones) that can do both. Instead of just trying to hold up the run, they're trying to get some pass rush.”
There will be many games within the game Saturday when Ole Miss and top-ranked Alabama collide, but one will be how much of a run game the Rebs can generate. As we all saw when they squared off with FSU, a one-dimensional offense is much easier to attack and control.
If they’re to get a run game going, Akeem Judd will be right in the middle of the fray.