Alabama facing another touted LSU tailback

Alabama facing another touted LSU tailback

November 2nd, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU running back Derrius Guice (5) tries to escape Mississippi State defensive back Chris Rayford (24) and linebacker Dezmond Harris (11) during their SEC matchup in September.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Late last season and again this past summer, LSU running back Derrius Guice claimed Alabama stacks the box because Crimson Tide defenders are "scared" by the ground game of the Tigers.

Guice is laying low this Halloween week as the Tigers (6-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) prepare to face Alabama (8-0, 5-0) Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We've blocked out the noise," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Wednesday. "We've focused in and locked the gates so we have tunnel vision. We understand the challenge we have, and we're going to be up for it, but in order to be up for it, we need to be tunnel-visioned every day at the task at hand.

"Hopefully our guys stay off the internet. You don't win a game that way."

Guice first sounded off after last year's 10-0 loss to Alabama in Baton Rouge, and the topic was brought up again in July at the annual SEC media days for football.

The 5-foot-11, 212-pound junior has rushed for 711 yards in seven games this season, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and he is coming off a 22-carry, 276-yard performance in a 40-24 victory at Ole Miss on Oct. 21. Guice will face an Alabama defense that leads the nation in run defense, having yielded an average of just 66.4 yards per contest this season.

It's also an Alabama defense that remembers his comments but is choosing to lay low as well.

"He's a good back," Crimson Tide junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick told reporters this week. "He's one of the best in the SEC. He runs really hard and really fast, and he makes good cuts and has good vision.

"He's probably one of the most talented backs we've faced this season, and we're just going to do our jobs to try and contain him."

Alabama did a sensational job of containing Leonard Fournette in the three previous meetings with LSU. Fournette, who ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing as a rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars, carried 57 times for 145 yards (2.5 per carry) in three opportunities against the Tide. Fournette's last two games against Alabama yielded 36 carries for 66 yards (1.8).

Guice played against the Tide last year, rushing two times for 8 yards. He is the only running back in SEC history to surpass 250 yards on three separate occasions, and while no one is expecting him to come close to that total, there is the expectation for physical play and a bunch of it.

"He runs the ball like Warren Sapp played defensive line," Orgeron said. "He runs it violently. He will run over you. He will run around you. He's quick and has great vision, and he rarely fumbles. He's tough, and the more he gets hit, the more he gets going."

Said Alabama coach Nick Saban: "There is no one redeeming quality that makes this guy great. What makes him really, really good is that he can do everything extremely well."

Tide tidbits

Alabama practiced Wednesday for two hours in full pads, with Saban praising the week of work so far. ... Sophomore running back Josh Jacobs (ankle) will be fine for Saturday, but Saban said senior defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand (knee) will be a game-time decision. ... Saban said he reached out to former Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who was let go Sunday as Florida's head coach, but that he hasn't been able to connect with him yet. McElwain visited his granddaughter this week in Arizona. ... Saban said he is not using the No. 2 standing in the College Football Playoff rankings as motivation.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.