Regaining The Edge

OC Dan Werner

The Rebels did a nice job running the football, for the most part, the first 7 1/2 games this season. The last 1 1/2, not so much. This week, they are working in practice to regain the edge.

The Rebel offensive coaches and players have not hit the panic button about their sudden lapses in the run game, but it's certainly a concern.

Coach Hugh Freeze has spent this week challenging himself and his staff to make sure the run game plan is sound and in pushing the Reb offensive line to regain the "edge" in the run game he feels has slipped a little.

Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner concurs with Freeze, but is also mindful of one more factor - who the Rebels have gone against in the last two games.

"A lot of it depends on who you are playing. The second half of the Arkansas game, they did some things that took us out of our run game," Werner explained. "And Georgia is just good at run defense. We had a hard time blocking them.

"Obviously, we are concerned and that's why we are working extremely hard on our plan this week and on regaining that feel we had most of this year. We understand that the way to win football games, from an offensive standpoint, is to be able to run the football."

Werner said the Rebel coaches are using their usual tactics to get the run game back on the right track.

"We are staying positive with them," he continued. "We are working on their mentality in terms of letting them know that we know they can get it done because we have seen them do it against good defenses.

"We are also making sure we are giving them the right plan to succeed."


Dan Werner
File Photo

Werner said one reason, in his mind, for the run game bogging down has been the grind of the season. He's expecting the OL to get a second wind with three games remaining.

"We have been playing the same five guys most of the way. At some point, I think they kind of hit a mental wall that they could not see the end of the tunnel, but now, with just three games left, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's time to finish strong," he noted.

Dan has a great deal of respect for the Vanderbilt defense, ranked fifth in the SEC in total defense, allowing just 316.2 yards a game.

"They don't do a whole lot of different things, but what they do, they do well and base it all out of looking the same," he noted. "They will show the same pre-snap read, but run three or four different things out of that look. They don't tip off what they are doing and it makes it tough for the quarterback to get a good read on what they are doing."

Vandy likes to send extra people from different angles.

"They blitz a lot and can bring pressure from anywhere. Again, they don't show their hand. They line up the same way but will do different things out of the same looks," Dan assessed. "They are very sound in what they do."

The critical part for Reb QB Bo Wallace is quick recognition.

"He's got to be sharp. He's got to know where to go with the ball quickly based on their safeties and how they are rotating," Werner said. "He's done a good job with that all year, but he will have to be on top of his game this week."

Werner and the Rebel offense will have to find a way to come out on top in what is shaping up to be football's version of a chess game.

"A major key for us is to be sharp mentally as coaches and players," he closed. "That's always the case, but I think against this defense even more so."

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