Coaches' Keys

Several of the Rebel assistant coaches were available to the media yesterday. We had one question for them: what are the key things you are looking for the first week or two of fall camp?

When approached about what their keys were for the first week or so of fall camp, the Ole Miss assistant football coaches were in lockstep with their answers at Media Day Friday in the IPF banquet room.

The common theme was "effort."

While some would call that "coach speak," and it certainly qualifies, they said it unabashedly because when you take off every layer of what this team needs and get down to the bare metal, effort is number one for a relatively new staff trying to mold a team for a grueling season.

"To play the way we want to play, being the cat and not the mouse, we have to have extreme effort on every play from 11 guys," said Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack. "That is the first thing I will look for this fall camp.

"We were very vanilla in spring because we wanted them to get the concepts of the defense down, but we also wanted to see who would lay it all on the line. Effort is the number one thing right now. If you are not all-out on every play, we will have to eliminate you from our plans. It's pretty simple. All-out leads to being more physical as well and that's something we have to be, more physical."

Defensive Line Coach Chris Kiffin echoed what Wommack said and added his own twist.

"Who wants it? Who will give us everything they have? We can work from there once we identify those guys," said Kiff. "I know it sounds like coach speak, but every spot in my room right now is wide open. I don't have a cemented starter on the DL right now, but I do feel good that we have a lot of guys who are capable of competing for a starting job.

"It will all start with who brings it every day, who goes and gets it. Who loves football? Who is still bringing it on day 11, 12, 13 when the grind gets tougher and starts to wear on you. That's what I am looking for."

Cornerback Coach Wesley McGriff played the effort card too, but from a mental angle.

"I'm looking for focus, paying attention to detail and eliminating mental mistakes. Those things all go hand-in-hand with effort. If you aren't giving great effort, you cannot achieve those three things," said Crime Dawg. "We cannot afford any lapses mentally or physically back there. We are the last line of defense."

Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke, who "made a living" at Ole Miss as an effort player, surprised nobody when his first thought on the key for the OL in fall camp was effort.

"Passion and energy, it's what it's all about. If football doesn't mean something to you, if you aren't passionate and give it all you have, you will not be out there long for me," Luke said bluntly. "If we will play with passion, effort and energy for 60 minutes, we will automatically be better.

"Naturally, I'm looking for a lot more, but that's the starting point. I'll also be looking for real depth - guys who are pushing for jobs and not just out there getting through practice. That type of competition will make everyone better. I don't want guys who are happy being on the second or third team."

The tempo the Rebs will operate on will be a major test for the big guys in the trenches, but Luke said they will get an early, continuous dose of that speed early in August.

"I think it will take all of August for us to get in the kind of shape we need to be in to run this offense, but we are going to start fast and keep pouring it on," he stated. "We are going to do everything in our power to go fast and stay fast."

Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner, who is also the quarterbacks coach, looks at his keys a bit differently. While his keys require maximum effort, they are more defined, or so it seems.

"I will look at three things in fall camp, especially early on. Protect the football, tempo and staying on schedule," said Werner. "Our quarterback is responsible for the tempo we want to run. He has to get everything lined up and moving.

"By staying ahead of schedule, we mean no 2nd-and-15s. Our goal is 4 yards a play. 2nd-and-6 is on schedule. 2nd-and-8 is not."

Werner said reps will be equal between Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti and who moves the team will sort out who wins the job.

"We will chart everything and whoever is moving the team will get the nod. We have no timetable on deciding that at this point, but it will be a fair competition and the results will determine the winner," he closed.

Wide Receiver Coach Grant Heard went back to the effort theme and battle cry.

"Effort is number one. We are going to be running these guys more than they have ever run in their lives and that will require maximum effort," Heard noted. "Our offense requires high energy. Nothing else will be good enough."

Running Backs Coach Derrick Nix used a different word, but it all came back to effort as well.

"It's all about competing. You can't compete without great effort. I want to see what happens when they get tagged by a linebacker, especially with our young backs. I know we have some talent, but I have to determine who wants it most and how much they want it," he stated simply.

There you have it - the early keys of what the coaches are looking for the first week or so of fall drills.

You can slice, dice, puree and mince every football term and cliche known, but in the end, fall camp boils down to one thing: effort.

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