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Rebels’ offensive coordinator Dan Werner likes what he sees from the running backs

Rebels’ offensive coordinator Dan Werner likes what he sees from the running backs

OXFORD, MS. – Dan Werner used all available bodies for Ole Miss’ running game in Saturday’s 38-13 win over Wofford. The Rebels’ co-offensive coordinator was happy with the results. Now, it’s all about staying consistent.

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Akeem Judd (shown here against Florida State on Sept. 5, 2016) is the most experienced of the Rebels’ running backs. (Photo credit: Amanda Swain, The Rebel Walk)

No. 17 Ole Miss (1-1) ran four running backs (Akeem Judd, Eugene Brazley, D.K. Buford, D’Vaughn Pennamon) at the Terriers, who didn’t seem to have an answer on defense to stop any of the four.

Judd rushed for 64 yards on 11 carries. Brazley, the junior out of New Orleans, Louisiana, had the best average per carry (9.8), finishing with 39 yards on four carries. Oxford, Mississippi native Buford showed promise – 18 yards on three carries – with his ability to shift gears as Wofford’s defensive players were coming his way.

Then there was the debut of freshman back Pennamon, who saw action after he was on the verge of receiving a redshirt season during fall camp. But with the losses of redshirt freshman Eric Swinney and junior Jordan Wilkins, Pennamon was the next man up. The Manvel, Texas native gained 13 yards on six carries.

Preparing for the Tide

Werner mentioned he will have to look over game film from the win over the Terriers to figure out who will give the offense the most stability with No. 1 Alabama (2-0) next on the schedule.

“Obviously, the first game I think it was my fault because I didn’t call enough,” Werner said of the shortage of running plays. “This game we called more. I saw the stats; we averaged about five yards a carry. There were some where we got stuffed, but those guys run a run-stop type of defense.”

Werner was pleased with the way his running backs performed against Wofford.

So the fact we did get a bunch of yards, we were pretty good with it today. We could have thrown it a lot more, but we said we really wanted to hand the ball off and see what we can do.

Before the season opener against the Seminoles, Werner felt confident and comfortable with the running game. But the depth quickly became thin after Swinney and Wilkins were no longer options for the Rebels. Out of the four who received playing time on Saturday, Judd is by far the most experienced. The senior back played in every game for Ole Miss last season, finishing third on the team with 421 rushing yards and was tied for fourth with three rushing touchdowns.

Despite the loss of two important backs, Werner will not have to do much tweaking of the offensive playbook.

We just have to call our plays. Obviously, we had two guys that we felt were power runners that we could hammer it up in there a little bit. Now, Akeem is really the one guy, so we’ve got to change our play calls a little bit. But for the most part, we are going to run our offense.

Werner will now start preparing for his offense to face one of the top defenses in the nation in the Crimson Tide. Alabama currently ranks sixth in the country in total defense, holding their opponents to a measly 216.5 yards per game average. There is no doubt that establishing a ground game will be part of the Rebels’ plan when they go for a third straight win over the Tide Saturday in Oxford.

(Feature image credit: Amanda Swain, The Rebel Walk)

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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