Another Challenge

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack, his staff and the Rebel defense have their hands full Saturday when they face the multi-faceted tempo offense of Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze have climbed the coaching ladder in similar ways.

Along the way, they became friends and have mentored each other on the offensive systems they now employ.

Rebel DC Dave Wommack is charged with stopping Malzahn's offense Saturday when the Rebels and Tigers clash at Auburn.

"They just keep building it and building it. They are putting in more each week," said Wommack Tuesday after practice. "We've gone back and broken down what Gus did at Arkansas State, what he did at Auburn with Cam (Newton) and what he's done this year.

"We are trying to get all the tricks and unusuals, so to speak. I think Gus does a great job with their offense. There are a lot of things similar to what Hugh does, but there are also differences. We have to work on it all."

Going against Freeze's tempo offense every day in practice can be an advantage. At least from the angle that they are used to the pace.

"I think being able to practice against tempo can be helpful, but there are different types of tempo offenses and they can catch you sleeping if you aren't alert the whole time," Dave stated.

Auburn's trigger man is junior Nick Marshall, a dual-threat type of quarterback.

"Anthony (Alford) has been real helpful in giving us a look as close to Nick as we have," said Wommack. "Anthony is a good athlete who has played quarterback. I think we are fortunate to have him simulating Marshall this week, but it's difficult to simulate the tempo with the scout team.

"That's why it has been beneficial to go against our offense at times."

More on Marshall. . . .

"I watched the first game and thought to myself that this guy can't throw a lick," he laughed, "but then I watched the next game and saw improvement and the next one and saw a lot of improvement.

"It was hard to tell in their LSU game because it was raining and everyone was slipping and sliding all over the place, but I think he's doing a really good job in that offense for the amount of time he has been in it. They run a lot of offense and he's handling it and getting better weekly."

Wommack also has respect for Auburn's main back, Tre Mason, who was almost a Rebel back a couple of years ago.

"He's strong and he runs really hard. He plays with a passion. He's a tough guy. Their backs are one of their strengths," Wommack noted.

Dave was pleased with the defensive effort at Alabama, except. . .

"It was really good except for the two long runs, which were really disappointing. I know you can't take those things away, but other than that, we did some really nice things," added Dave. "Our coaches had a great gameplan and our kids executed pretty well.

"I really thought we could hold them to 14 or 17 points, in that range, but we had those two busts that kind of blew that out a little."

Last week was the first time Robert Nkemdiche had played extensively at defensive tackle.

"That went well. He's picking up the defense more and more and seems to be a fit there. The veterans can, and do, help him out in there and he's making excellent progress," Wommack noted. "Being able to play him inside is a good thing for us."

Denzel Nkemdiche had 26 snaps versus Alabama in his comeback bid from knee surgery.

"It was good that he got out there. He had to get back out there and ride that horse. He got good snaps and didn't swell the next day," Dave stated. "I think he'll get the rust knocked off and just get better and better from this point on."

Dave is pleased with the progress of the secondary to this point as well.

"Moving Mike Hilton to cornerback has been a very good move for us. We also took the redshirt off of D.J. (Derrick Jones) and I think that will pay dividends. We are really excited about him. He's getting better and better each day and each week. He gives us length there that we haven't had. Senquez (Golson) has been solid and now we have Charles (Sawyer) back as well," Dave said. "Tony Conner has come on really strong. He is a tremendous athlete who will just get better and better. That's a feature spot for us because of all the different responsibility that position has. He's handled them all well.

"And I have been proud of the play of Cody (Prewitt) and Trae (Elston) at the safety slots. In all, we have gotten better in the secondary, but we have to keep getting better."

The Rebs will have another major test Saturday against the tempo offense of Auburn, led by Malzahn.

"We'll have to play well, no question about that," Wommack closed.

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