Coaches Corner: Dave Wommack

Coaches Corner is a regular feature sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. This edition is a Q&A with Dave Wommack, the defensive coordinator for the Arkansas football team.

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Coaches Corner:

Dave Wommack is defensive coordinator and linebacker coach. We sat down with him after spring drills to talk about the state of the Arkansas defense heading into the summer.


Hawgs Illustrated: What is the most pressing concern heading into the fall?


Dave Wommack: We still don't know our starter at free safety. We don't know if Tony Bua is a free safety or a wolf linebacker. You would have liked to have found that out in the spring, but he wasn't able to practice after offseason surgery.


It could be Tony Bua at free or it could be Jimarr Gallon. I also like Lorinezo Robinson and Vickiel Vaughn there, but they are still a little inexperienced. Tony and Jimarr have played a lot of football.


HI: How long do you have to make the decision on free safety in the fall?


Wommack: We have to find out in a hurry. I'll be able to tell probably after the first day or two in full pads. You come to a point and you have to make a decision and then don't look back. In the perfect world, we'd know right now, but because of injuries, we couldn't get there in the spring.


HI: Was the spring wasted?


Wommack: No, it wasn't wasted. We got a lot of good work in with young players. We were able to get a lot of work done with our defensive line. Guys like Jeb Huckeba and Brandon Holmes got a lot of great work at new positions. I think we saw that both are going to be able to help us this year and play big roles with our defense.


But, we were handcuffed because of injuries and the guys that were out because of track. We played about one/third of our defensive package this spring. We didn't have enough corners to play our five-back package and that was about what we were in 60 percent of the time last year. I'm sure it will be a big part of our defense this year, depending on the offensive schemes we see. The offense sometimes controls what scheme you play on defense.


HI: You moved from the secondary to the linebackers as far as your position. What caused that and how does it change your perspective?


Wommack: I think what you do as a coordinator makes it much more efficient if you are at inside linebacker. You are with the secondary and the front and you are aware of what both are doing. If you are coaching the secondary, you are more detached from what they line is doing and it just makes it easier if you coach the linebackers.


I've been a defensive coordinator for 12 years. I was with the linebackers for 11 of them. So, I'm more familiar with that.


There are a lot of things that have to be done as far as breaking down tape and time spent in preparation. If you are with the linebackers, you have two positions instead of four with the secondary. You have a smaller group to coach and it makes it more efficient.


There is another factor. We've got a new line coach and it helped if I was more involved in the front. Tracy Rocker is a great coach and we've meshed well together. He understands what we are looking for in this scheme and it's working great.


HI: Is this a defense that should improve from last season?


Wommack: We've got a lot of veteran guys who have played a lot of football so we have players that know our scheme. We lost one important cog in Kenny Hamlin. He was experienced and was a leader and he made plays in our scheme. I won't minimize his importance to our defense the last couple of years. But, I expect that we will have a solid unit when we get everyone back in the fall.


HI: Do you worry about the defensive front?


Wommack: I don't worry about our front-line guys. I think Jeb Huckeba will help us in a tremendous way as far as pass rush. I saw that he can be effective coming off the edge in the spring. Arrion Dixon had a tremendous spring. He is a solid SEC player in the middle now.


I think we will have enough players to fill out the rest of the front, but what I worry about us depth. We are thin in the defensive line.


HI: Does that change the way you call a game?


Wommack: It goes back to last year. When you watch us, you could see that we put an awful lot of pressure on our cornerbacks. If I had it to do over again, I might not do that. But, then again, we are not going to let people run the ball on us.


HI: So that means sending pressure?


Wommack: It does mean a commitment of one more player to the running game. In doing that, we gave up too many big plays last year. But, we weren't giving up any more big plays than other defenses in our league.


I wanted to see if that was the case or not, so I took the tapes of three other teams and broke down their defensive plays. They were almost identical in the number of big plays given up.


You have to force people to throw the ball. What I will say is that we could have played certain situations better and we will play them better this year. We will continue to put corners on the island. We will face good quarterbacks on our schedule this year. You can't play vanilla against a good quarterback. They will cut you up. You have to do more than a four-man rush.


I just know that what is best for our team is to stop the run. We want to improve in all areas this year, but we still want to stop the run.


We probably emphasized this spring more two-deep safeties than we have in the past. But, we will still try to stop the run and that means bringing an extra guy in our front. What you want to do is to disguise it better as to which man that is that you are bringing. We looked at some zone blitz packages that had been done here before I came and those were successful and we'll keep that stuff.





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