Last year, Alabama Coach Nick Saban was missing an anchor on his defensive line.
The Tide employs a 3-4 scheme. That's 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers. In that scheme the nose guard has to be a rock and essentially plug from offensive guard to offensive guard of the opposing offense.
So Saban went out and recruited a mountain of a man, 6-5, 365-pound Terrence Cody, to provide ballast to his DL.
So far, the results are positive. Bama leads the SEC in rushing defense allowing only 50 yards a game on the ground. That number also puts the Tide 2nd in the nation in that category.
But when senior RG Maurice Miller watches film of Alabama's defense, he sees more than Cody. He see a pair of 280-pounders at defensive end and a trio of 250-pound linebackers.
"Cody will be the biggest guy we face all year. He's a space-eater," said Miller, "but Alabama has excellent personnel across the board on their front seven.
"What we will have to do is get four hands on Cody and still try to work to the second level to their linebackers."
Maurice is impressed, but not overwhelmed.
"From what we have seen on film, some people have been able to get a gap here and there for their running backs," he said. "It's not easy, but it never is in this league.
"They try to get him to tie up two guys to free up a linebacker to make plays, and they are real good at it. They don't allow much on the ground."
Mo said the 3-4 scheme will be different than what the Rebels have seen thus far in the season, but he's satisfied they will be ready for the different look.
"With the 3-4, they will be minus one big guy and replace him on the second level with a more athletic guy," he explained. "You have to react quicker and make quicker decisions against the 3-4 because you are going to have to reach and block a better athlete."
Maurice said Tulane was able to create some running room in spurts against the Tide and he expects the Rebels to do the same.
"We will have to be at the top of our game, but I think we will be able to run the ball enough to keep them honest," Mo noted.
The Rebel run game is averaging 163 yards a game, fourth in the SEC, but Miller believes it can get much better.
"For the most part, we are pleased because we keep getting better at it," he added, "but we know we can get better results. We just have to focus on our fundamentals and make sure we are communicating well. If we communicate well who we are supposed to block, I think we can do the job better.
"Alabama's defense has done a nice job of stopping runs that bounce outside. They have the perimeter covered pretty well. I think we will have to go right at them to get something going."
Miller and every Rebel is aware Alabama is ranked number two in the country, but it's not something they are going to dwell on.
"When you play in the SEC, everyone is good and there's a good chance you are going to be playing a highly ranked team," said Mo. "We have to play with a lot of intensity and play as close to error-free as possible.
"We have already played a Top 5 team and we got a win out of it. We will line up with confidence against Alabama, but we know it's going to be an all-day affair."
Miller, Center Daverin Geralds and LG Darryl Harris are going to have #62, Cody, staring them in the face all day.
They know what is in store for them when they take the field Saturday in a 2:30 p.m. CBS game.
"Alabama will have the most physical front we will face to this point in the season. We are looking forward to the challenge," he closed. "A lot will be decided with how we do in the trenches."
Maurice Miller -
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