Big Challenge

Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack knows what's in store for his troops this weekend when Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies invade Oxford.

In SEC football, there are challenges every week.

Tough challenges.

Different types of challenges.

But it's debatable the Ole Miss defense will face a sterner test than they will Saturday night when last year's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies invade Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Stadium.

"I told the guys earlier, if you want a real challenge, play this bunch," said Rebel DC Dave Wommack. "They spread you out so wide and when it's an empty set, it's really a one-back with Manziel and when it's a one-back, it's a two-back in actuality.

"They are averaging around 580 yards of total offense and 220 of that on the ground. It's a real formidable challenge this week."

The Rebels somewhat contained Manziel and company for most of their encounter last year, but he "got loose" in the fourth quarter and brought his team back for a close win in Oxford.

Wommack believes he has improved since last year.

"As a thrower, he has improved a lot," said Wommack. "He hasn't been running the ball as much as he was last year. It's not that he can't or won't - he absolutely will, but I think he's just more accurate throwing the ball this year and I think he reads coverages better too."

Johnny Manziel
USA TODAY images

The defensive coaching staff put the Rebs through an extensive tackling and ball-stripping drill Tuesday after last Saturday's effort against Auburn, where Wommack was not pleased with the Rebs' tackling.

"We tackled poorly, no doubt, but we also were a step slow getting where we needed to be as well," he explained. "Our safeties were also rushing teh line of scrimmage too quickly at times and taking themselves out of plays.

"It was a combination of a couple of things, but the tackling has been poor the last couple of weeks. We worked that hard today (Tuesday) and will continue to work it all week until we get it right."

Wommack's defense forced six turnovers against the Aggies last year. How can they duplicate that type of performance this Saturday?

"Last year, we played with extreme passion and really flew to the ball. We have to get back to where we are doing those things again on every single play," he noted. "We have to step up and do those things again this week. We have to play with a lot of energy and passion to have a chance."

The Rebels are getting a little thin at defensive end with C.J. Johnson doubtful for this weekend and Carlos Thompson out.

"That's why we went with the 3-3 scheme a lot of the Auburn game. We knew if we lost one guy during that game, we would have been in a bind, so we had to create a new package because of that," Wommack said.

Wommack said the defensive line will have to be disciplined and not over pursue Manziel.

"Last year there were some mixups early in the game when our DL was supposed to be flushing him and our spy was supposed to clean it up, but we gave him too many openings. We cleaned that up in the second and third quarters, but we did not do a good job of that late in the game and he got us," Wommack stated.

Dave Wommack
Chuck Rounsaville

"You have to have a controlled rush against him and force him to go where you want him to go when he comes out of the pocket."

Just getting to Manziel does not ensure you will bring him down.

"He's one of the best I have seen at getting away from tacklers. He's stronger than he looks and he is so slippery. He's quick and he's fast," Wommack said. "Not only that, but there are times when he can rely on his big receiver (Mike Evans) to just go get the ball if he throws it up when he's in trouble.

"And don't forget, they have a good run game too. They are the total offensive package. Their numbers prove that. Forty-two points on Alabama tells you all you need to know."


They are always there in the SEC, but Wommack knows the one facing the Rebs Saturday is unique and formidable.

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