Football Time

There are many intriguing storylines – individual, group and team - that will unfold during the spring football session, which begins at 3 this afternoon. Here are the goals for the offense and defense as outlined by Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner and Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack.

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack is taking a simple, economical and somewhat predictable approach to spring training.

His goals are fairly basic.

"One thing we didn't have a lot of last year that we will be trying to develop more of is create competition. Hopefully we will have more competition with some of the guys we have brought in and with the development of some of those who did not play much or at all last year," Wommack began. "Effort will still be a huge thing for us. I feel the more knowledge we gain as a team, the better the effort. That will always be a big deal for us.

"We are still in the early stages of developing a team. We are still very young. While our young guys who did play last year got some great experience, they still have a lot of work to do in terms of using their eyes and studying the game. I like the momentum we have, but we still have to be passionate in the way we coach them in taking them to the next step because we aren't even close to where we need to be yet in my eyes. We have to guard against how great things felt in the Egg Bowl and Compass Bowl – we have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be and we all need to remember that and keep driving toward the ultimate goal."

The creation of competition goes hand in hand, and boils down to, building depth. Wommack has consistently said his goal is to have at least 22 players ready to go who are somewhat interchangeable at each position. Will that be more of a reality this spring?

"There is no question we will be closer to that goal this spring than we were last year, but that would not be hard to do," he smiled. "I believe we have some competition going on now and that will create more depth. We feel we have competition almost across the board this spring, unlike last spring.

"We will also experiment with personnel at different positions at times and get our two-deep set as quickly as we can set it. We wills tart off by taking a look at Quadarias Mireles at corner and we have moved Quintavious Burdette from CB to safety, for instance. I see the spring as a new start for everyone. Certainly there are some obvious guys who are not likely to be beaten out, but there are also open positions and lots of playing time to be earned across the board." Part of the knowledge angle Wommack is referring to is linked back to Wommack's scheme and his desire to expand on what was put in last year.

Dave Wommack
File Photo

"We need to put in more scheme if we get an opportunity to. We will definitely install more than we did last spring, but it will be based on how fast the kids can learn it," he continued. "We need to advance in that area.

"We need to perfect more of our scheme to help improve in some of the areas we lacked in last year, such as third-down defense. Some games we were good in that area and some games we weren't. Fourth-quarter defense will also be an emphasis. We were about 50-50 in winning the fourth quarter last year. There were things we could have called last year that would have alleviated some of that, I believe, but our kids just hadn't gotten that deep into our scheme yet. I told you the first spring it would be like that – there would be times our inexperience in the system would show, and it did. We need to remedy as much of that as we can by introducing more scheme, but we can only do that if the kids can execute it and learn it well enough to call it."

Wommack is like every conscientious coach in the business in that he will also be keeping a keen eye on the development of leadership. In college football, that role changes yearly, to a certain extent.

"Some leadership is already being developed in the offseason program, but I am anxious to see it manifest itself on the field and continue to develop," he explained. "We expect Mike Marry, Denzel Nkemdiche, Cody Pruitt, C.J. Johnson, guys who stepped up at the end of last year who are returning, to continue along that path and for others to develop as well. There are very few guys on this team who are not buying in now, so leadership should come, but as a coach you are always anxious to see it happen."

Wommack will "keep" DE Carlos Thompson on his side of the ball after some talk of him moving to tight end at the end of last fall.

"There are several players I am really excited to see this spring. Carlos is one of them. We know he has physical talent – we just have to bring it out of him," Dave stated. "D. T. Shackelford is another one. He's a natural leader. I think he is ready to go and I believe he will be a great asset to us from a lot of angles."

The bottom line for Wommack is for the defense to keep on keeping on.

"Great effort, like we were able to develop last year, will take care of a lot of issues. We expect nothing less from this group of players. I look forward to our 15 days with them in spring," he closed.

Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner starts off his goals with finding answers to personnel questions.

"What spots do we need to fill and who is going to fill them?" Dan asked. "To me, that is the number one thing we will try to accomplish – identifying our needs and filling them. Obviously, number one on that list – position-wise – is tight end. All of our tight ends, everyone knows, were seniors, so we are starting from scratch there. We have to find out what our young tight ends can do.

"Then you look at the quarterback position with Bo (Wallace) being out, we have to be able to operate the offense efficiently so the whole offense stays on pace this spring. Barry (Brunetti) and Maikhail Miller will get plenty of opportunity to see what they can do. I'm excited about that. Some of coaching is planning for the unexpected. While we all believe Bo will be fine, he's a kid who could get hit on it again next year and be back in the same position. We don't think that way, of course, but you have to plan and prepare that way. It's critical that our number two guy be ready to roll."

Dan Werner
File Photo

Rebel fans were quick to project Brunetti taking over the role that Randall Mackey filled last year – slot guy, running back, Wildcat guy, etc. The Ole Miss coaches are adamant, for now, that will not be the case.

"We are not entertaining that right now. Last year, there was a glaring need for Mackey to do that. We don't feel that need right now. At this point, I don't see a glaring need at the other positions and I see a need for a quarterback," he noted. "We've never even talked about it."

At offensive line, Werner feels relatively comfortable, despite Aaron Morris being out for spring with shoulder issues and A.J. Hawkins having graduated off the starting 2012 line.

"In the back of our minds, we feel OK there because we know Aaron will be back in the fall and Patrick Junen came on strong at the end of last year and got a lot of reps last year," Dan noted. "Patrick is the logical choice, but we feel there are a couple of other guys who are ready to move up a notch. Justin Bell is real close, for example.

"OL and wide receiver are where we feel the best because we have all of our WR starters back and we have four out of five OL starters, in fall, back."

Running back has talent, but not a lot of experience, something Werner wants addressed in spring, for obvious reasons.

"Jeff Scott is our main guy based on last year's performance. We feel I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton can also be special once they get everything down pat," Werner stated. "We are also anxious to see mid-year guy Mark Dodson, who we really like and are glad we were able to sign."


The goal is set in stone.

"We want to go as fast as the referees will let us. As soon as they set the ball, we want to go. We will work on tempo daily in spring. We want to be faster than we were last year, so tempo and being faster is a big goal of ours this spring," he said. "I think we should be where we want to be next season. We did a good job with it last year, but we weren't as fast as we wanted to be sometimes.

"We won't have to teach them as much this spring in terms of being fast. They won't be thinking as much. For instance, they won't be thinking about what to do, they will be thinking about how to perfect it and do it properly in different situations against different looks. We will be way ahead of last spring in that regard."

From a schematic standpoint, Werner said the offense is constantly evolving.

"We will visit some NFL and college teams and they will visit us and we'll go from there," said Werner. "To the naked eye, there won't be much difference, but we will do some different things based on natural evolution of the offense."

Werner is also anxious to see the development of some of the players who did not play much last year.

"There will be kids who come out in spring ball who have been under Paul Jackson since the bowl game who will be better and will turn our heads. I look forward to seeing those kids who have developed and move to the next level," he closed. "I look forward to seeing how Mathers, Cody Core, Jaylen and some others develop."

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