How do you stop LSU running back Leonard Fournette?
It’s a task defensive coordinators dread, but one Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will have to tackle when the Rebels face the Tigers on Saturday.
“You’re playing one of the best backs probably in the history of the SEC,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze told reporters Monday. “It’s a tremendous challenge. You have to gang tackle. You have to run to the football. He’s just one of the best players that will ever come through this conference, and that says a lot.”
Fournette was the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy before back-to-back lackluster performances in LSU’s losses to Alabama and Arkansas.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder rushed 19 times in each game, gaining 31 yards and 91 yards against the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks, respectively. However, Fournette has leads the nation with 1,474 rushing yards to go along with 17 touchdowns despite having one game canceled because of bad weather.
Last season, Fournette had 113 yards on 23 carries against Ole Miss in the Tigers’ 10-7 win, but the Rebels avoided any highlight plays, which Freeze said will be a key for his defense Saturday.
“We did OK against him last year, but he’s going to get his,” Freeze said. “If they decide to have a game plan that gives him the ball, he’s going to get his. You just hope they aren’t explosive to the point that it’s creating scoring opportunities off of one or two runs. He’s a super talented guy. He was kind of that way when he got there, and he’s only gotten better.”
Ole Miss ranks sixth in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up 125.7 rushing yards per game, but the Rebels are third in the SEC in yards per carry allowed (3.19).
The area Ole Miss has really struggled with is pass defense, which has helped open up some opportunities for opponents in the run game.
“We obviously feel good about a plan when you put it in place and hope your kids can execute it,” Freeze said. “When you have hindsight, you obviously wish you could do things differently. I think it’s a combination of this plan isn’t great against what they had called and this call is a good call and we didn’t execute. If we didn’t execute it, did we not teach it properly? You have to look at ourselves first and then communicate with the players in your room.
“The challenge is to ask your kids to do what they feel confident doing. That’s what our focus will be the last few weeks.”