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Alabama is one of the best teams in the country at stopping the running game through the early part of the season.
The Crimson Tide allowed just 62.5 yards on the ground, which is fourth best in the country. Opposing teams averaged 1.84 yards per rush and scored just twice on the ground in the first four games. All four opponents – Utah State, Texas, Louisiana-Monroe and Vanderbilt – fell at least 60 yards short of their season average against the Crimson Tide. No team has rushed more than 79 yards and Vanderbilt had 14 yards on 26 attempts.
Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban stared ahead at this weekend’s Southeastern Conference trip to Arkansas when answering a question about the keys to stopping the run thus far.
“You got to beat blockers on the line of scrimmage,” Saban said. “Everybody’s got to do their job and fit the runs right. So far, we’ve done that fairly well, but the challenges in this game are going to be far greater than we’ve faced to this point. They have a really good scheme, a lot of quarterback runs involved in it. It’s going to take a great week of preparation for us to be able to play the run well this week.”
Arkansas will undoubtedly offer a difficult challenge to the Alabama run defense. As a team, the Razorbacks average 243.8 yards per game, which is ninth in the country, with nine rushing touchdowns. Raheim Sanders, a 6-foot-2, 247-pound sophomore from Rockledge, Florida, is fourth in the country in total rushing yards (508) and rushing yards per game (127).
The real challenge for the defense, though, is quarterback K.J. Jefferson, a 6-foot-3, 242-pound sophomore from Sardis, Mississippi. Jefferson, who started all 13 games in 2021 and extended his starting streak to 17 games this season, is a legitimate dual-threat quarterback.
“Big strong guy, hard to tackle, hard to sack, hard to get on the ground, can push the pile and run over people when he runs quarterback runs, very physical player,” Saban said.
Jefferson has netted 274 yards on 64 carries with four touchdowns. He also opens things up for the running backs because of his ability to run. What makes the offense really tick, however, is his ability to mix the pass with the run. Jefferson is 67-of-97 for 941 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.
"You can’t (forget about) this guy’s effectiveness as a passer,” Saban said. “He is really, really good. He’s got a strong arm, throws the deep ball well and they make a lot of explosive plays. He executes it both ways very, very well.”
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