Alabama running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake will provide a tough challenge behind an offensive line which has paved the way for 810 rushing yards in four games.
But the task for Georgia defensively won't be limited to stopping the Crimson Tide’s run game, even if the weather takes a turn for the worse like it’s expected to.
Assuming any rain that falls won't limit the quarterbacks from throwing the ball, Alabama’s Jake Coker could set himself up for some play-action plays if the running game finds some success early on. That’s been a staple of the Alabama offense over the years, being able to hit teams that begin to creep up against the run.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt stressed the importance of his defensive backs to keep their eye discipline in focus this week.
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“The better a team can run the football, the better the play action pass will be and the less chance you'll be in third-and-long, and that's what we're all trying to stay out of,” Richt said. “But it's very important for our guys to have that discipline. And read their keys, but sometimes the keys look almost identical.”
This means cornerbacks Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish will need to make sure not to get fooled in coverage and allow the Alabama receivers to get behind them on the deep ball.
“It’s easy to get sucked up, they have some great backs in Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake,” Davis said. “It’s easy if you’re looking in the backfield trying to make a tackle and not have eye discipline. Your man could go screaming past you. You never want to get caught in that position. I’d say it’s big on this week to have eye discipline, to know your job. They can do multiple things. They could even hand it off to him and do a flea flicker, something like that. As a DB, it’s most important to do our job.”
Richt said Alabama does a good job of disguising its play-action game by blocking those plays at the same pad level it would when it runs the ball. The Crimson Tide could even pull a lineman to make a defense think for sure a run play is coming, only to hit a pass over the top.
For inside linebacker Jake Ganus, not biting on those fakes will be important at his position. Of course, that’s tough when runners such as Henry (422, eight touchdowns) and Drake (215 yards, one touchdown) are guys defenses have to spend a lot of energy accounting for.
“When they can run the ball and throw it, it’s big,” Ganus said. “You have to know where your eyes are supposed to be and focus on your keys.”