Defensive Challenges

Dave Wommack said since Trae Elston's out for the weekend, others simply have to step in and step up.

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"That's exactly what's got to happen," the Rebels' defensive coordinator said. "The next guy's got to step up. Trae's been doing such a great job for us. I'm proud of him and the way he's worked so hard and gotten better. So the next guy's got to move up and do what he's got to do."

The "next guy" after starter Charles Sawyer at the rover position is now Frank Crawford, according to Wommack.

"Frank's going to be the backup rover this week," Wommack said.

A defense that has not as much depth as it would like will miss an improving Elston, who was in on quite a bit of action the first two games.

"The first week he played 32 (plays) and last week 39," Wommack said. "He was playing more and more and getting better and better. He's really learned it inside and out. He's doing a great job with his eyes. Proud of him for a freshman."

Wommack's defense will have to deal with its toughest challenge yet. The Rebel defenders have played well, generally speaking, in the first two games. But this week is an entirely different level of opponent.

The Longhorns like to mix things up and have a lot of options on offense. What the Rebel defense faced in August against its own offense now could pay off.

"It helps tremendously," Wommack said. "All the adjustments that (Texas has) done, we've seen them before. I'm sure there will be some things they go with in the game that maybe we haven't practiced. But I think our kids will be able to adjust to it. Hopefully they will. It slows you down a little in practice as far as reps are concerned because you've got to get all the shifts and all that stuff down. But our scout team is doing a great job and will tomorrow as well. I think we'll be prepared for it."

Frank Crawford
Bruce Newman

Longhorn quarterback David Ash has emerged and is putting up some solid numbers. He and Case McCoy battled it out in 2011, and now Ash seems to be their guy.

"They went back and forth with two guys last year, and obviously they've settled on him being their guy," Wommack said of Ash. "He's like anybody else. The more reps he gets, the better he gets. They scored 45 points last week, so we've got a job ahead of us.

"He's got a strong arm. He's got the ability to escape and put you in a bad position. You'd better stay with those receivers, too. If you don't, he'll find them. I actually think he throws better on the move than he does sitting in the pocket, personally."

The Rebel defenders have been able to have some success early this season. Ole Miss leads the Southeastern Conference with 20 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

"I think Coach (Chris) Kiffin's done a great job," said Wommack of the Rebels' defensive line coach. "He and (linebackers coach) Tom (Allen) scheme up the passing game and the protections each and every week. I think it's a credit to them. It goes to the whole team. You've got to be able to cover it and so forth. I think we've given up too much pass yardage in general. We're getting better at that each and every week."

Wommack said the Rebel coaches have studied the Longhorns for a long time and have seen how good they are.

"We've got a whole reel of them from last year," he said. "In the offseason we broke down their season. You've just got to get 11 guys going to the football on every play and playing their responsibilities. I know you get tired of me saying eyes, but if you put your eyes in the right place, that won't be an issue for us."

The Texas offensive line is impressive. Wommack said they'll see more of that type front in the weeks ahead.

"They're massive. They're like an SEC team," he said. "They've got the ability to come off the ball. Power is their No. 1 running play. They do a good job. I believe they're rushing for 214 yards a game. We're giving up like 65 yards rushing a game. So something better give this weekend."

Wommack knows the Rebels have their hands full throughout that side of the ball. But he said the defenders are looking forward to the challenges Saturday night.

"We're a smaller defense in general," Wommack said. "We'd like to be bigger in some spots than what we are. But I've been proud of the kids, though. We challenged them to play physical and fly to the football in the game. When I put the film on on Sunday, it looked like we were playing fast. That's a credit to the assistant coaches of being able to do that. But it will be the most physical team we've played, by far."

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