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December 8, 2010

Matchup: Mississippi LB vs. Alabama RB

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In a game such as the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, in which blitzing is limited for the defense, the offense owns a natural advantage. One place linebackers make their presence known is against the run. The Mississippi linebackers will try to squash any efforts on the ground by the Alabama running backs. Rivals.com's Chris Nee breaks down the matchup.

The players:

Alabama running backs: Ameer Abdullah (Homewood), Chris Dukes (UMS Wright), DaMarcus James (Damapolis) and Stanley Robinson (Carver-Montgomery)

Mississippi linebackers: Trae Johnson (Mendenhall), C.J. Johnson (Philadelphia) and Corey Williams (Noxubee County)

The breakdown:

Alabama has a pair of all-purpose backs led by Abdullah, a small, quick athlete with good hands. He is willing to run between the tackles but can also spring a run outside. He may be most deadly in the option game or on short passes in space. He has good wiggle and is quick on the touch. Dukes is another small running back who is better in space than he is as a power back.

While Robinson is a few pounds shy of 200, the versatile athlete is capable of running inside or out, and ducking his shoulder. He is best though when he can utilize one cut and then use his speed to avoid tacklers. James, a former Washington State commitment, is a 5-foot-10, 215-pounder who will take on a blocker just as quickly as he runs around them. He doesn't possess great top-end speed but he is capable of making defenders miss by utilizing spin moves and jukes.

The unquestioned star of the Mississippi linebackers is C.J. Johnson, a Mississippi State commitment. Johnson, who is also an Army All-American, is a 6-foot-3, 227-pound athlete. He is a solid middle linebacker with the ability to move laterally and make plays on the outside. He is one of the top prospects in the Magnolia State and intends to showcase that ability in Saturday's game.

Johnson is joined by linebackers suited for the outside in the other Johnson (Trae) and Williams. Jacoby Eason is a bigger defensive athlete who may also contribute at outside linebacker but is more likely to make his impact with his hand down at the line of scrimmage.

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