"There are a lot of things we can accomplish during the open week, but getting everyone healthy is my number one priority," said Wommack, whose defense leads the nation in scoring defense at 11.9 points per game and is 9th in total defense while giving up just 309.8 yards an outing. "When we have everyone available, we are a pretty stingy defense."
Defensively, it's well-documented OLB Denzel Nkemdiche is out for the year, so there's nothing that can be done about that, but the hope is that All-American Free Safety Cody Prewitt, who has struggled with rib and shoulder issues, will be full go by the time the Arkansas game rolls around; LB Keith Lewis, out this week with a concussion, is ready to go; and all the unreported "bumps and bruises" heal up in time for a physical opponent in the Hogs.
"We have, like everyone, our share of nicks and colds and viruses and it's not just on defense. We think everyone who has not already been declared out for the year will be ready, but that's the biggest thing we can accomplish this week," he added.
Number two on the open week agenda has been getting back to basics.
"We have worked hard on the fundamentals that tend to slip during the season when you are spending most of your time gameplanning," Dave continued. "You have to remember, we only get 20 hours a week with our players and that includes everything, so when you are in a stretch of seven games in a row, like we were before this open week, you don't spend as much time on individual drills.
"The open week is a good time to have a refresher course on all of that and to sharpen things up for the stretch run. Footwork, movements, tackling fundamentals, all the little things, you can get better at in an open week when you have time to go back over them."
But don't think all the practice time this week has been devoted to fundamentals.
"We've gotten a good jump on installing our gameplan for Arkansas," Wommack stated. "We've gotten the general stuff in. We can hone in on some things next week. We will have our hands full up there. That's a tough place to play and they have a physical offense.
"It should be a benefit to get this kind of head start because they run a different type of offense than we have seen this year. They run a lot of unbalanced looks with shifts and motions. They are not like LSU where they just try to pound you. They have a really good line and good backs, but there is some deception in there too."
Wommack said he's been impressed with what he has seen on film of the Razorbacks.
"What I like about them is that they play hard. Their quarterback has improved and they have really good depth in the backfield. Their two tight ends are outstanding. I think they are a lot better than they were last year," he said.
Wommack was asked about freshman CB Kendarius Webster, who had his second career start against Presbyterian College last Saturday.
"Ken is a freshman and he is going to make mistakes, but he's getting experience and getting better and better by the day. He's a very talented young man and I am really pleased with him," Dave assessed. "He's got a corner's mentality, we call it, where nothing seems to bother him. He just plays the next play and is mature from that standpoint. When you have the talent he does, you are able to do that at a young age. He's going to be really special, and is already."
Some other young players are also developing to suit Dave.
"I don't get to see much of them because they are on the scout team and spend most of their time with the offense, but (DT) Breeland Speaks and (DE) Victor Evans have gotten the attention of our offensive coaches. They talk about them a lot," Wommack evaluated. "I think we had a fine freshman class on defense. Both the C.J.s, Moore and Hampton, have really grown a lot. (DE) Marquis Haynes, as I have said all along, is really good already and I like what A.J. Moore has done backing up Tony Conner at Husky. (MLB) DeMarquis Gates has also impressed me with his progress.
"Being in the meetings, getting practice reps, learning their positions is all invaluable to their development and the game reps they have gotten have helped them by leaps and bounds. There's nothing like speed of the game."
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