To say Rebel Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson is impressed with the Alabama defense, and mainly the front seven, would be a gross understatement.
"Their defensive front is the best I have seen. If there is a better front in the country than theirs, I want to see it," said Markuson, also the Rebel Run Game Coordinator. "They are big, physical, fast, they play with reckless abandon, they are well-coached, they are fundamentally sound in everything they do. They are fun to watch.
"We have a tough task in front of us, no doubt."
And if that weren't enough to make any Rebel fan cringe a little, there's a double whammy. The Tide employs a 3-4 front which is different from what the Rebel offense is used to facing.
"There are a lot of issues we will have to deal with. It changes our rules in protection and in the run game and it can be confusing," Mike continued. "They use five or six different front looks and you have to prepare for it.
"Basically, what I am saying is that they do not have any holes on their defense, personnel-wise or scheme-wise."
The Tide defense is only giving up 50 yards a game on the ground, which leads the SEC and is second in the nation.
"You just have to fight and try to get ties with their people. Position yourself correctly and hope you can create some running lanes," he explained. "When you have a noseguard like Terrence Cody, who is massive, and you put him in a 3-4 look, it's tough. He's a space eater. He just eats space and you have attack him with two guys, which frees up linebackers and is what they want to happen.
"There is no question this will be a huge challenge for our center and guards."
Markuson said the Rebs have made progress with their run game, but it's still an iffy proposition.
"We've done some good and some bad in the run game in the first six games," Mike added. "We show signs we are coming and then there are times when it's not that great. We just have to keep chipping away and working on it. We have to keep getting a little better each day fundamentally and being more physical. It will catch on and we have progressed little by little.
"We just have to be consistent with it. We can see it on film coming around, we just haven't been as consistent with it as we need to be. It's close, and we're encouraged, but we haven't put it all together yet."
Markuson and RB Coach Derrick Nix work together closely, obviously. Last week, Nix and Houston Nutt were praising the progress freshman TB Enrique Davis has been making of late.
"I think he's going to be a bigger part of the picture the rest of the way. He's about 225 pounds and is a downhill guy. He can run the inside zone and the power counter game. He's a load, a lot to bring down," Mike stated. "When he hits it hard, people bounce off of him. We just have to keep him going - he's starting to do some good things in practice and we think he's close to doing those things on Saturdays."
The Alabama game is expected to be a very physical affair. For the Rebs to come out on top, they have to match or exceed Bama's physicality.
"The kids have done a good job of trying to be more physical. It's time for them to apply that to the Alabama game," Markuson closed. "We need an all-out effort, good execution and leadership from our top guys."
Mike Markuson -
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