Rebel Recruiting Goals: Linebackers

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was moved from safeties to linebackers in the off-season to make room for Corey Batoon.

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The Rebels are graduating their starting linebackers this year in stinger Denzel Nkemdiche and mike C.J. Johnson. They also lose their back-up middle linebacker in Christian Russell. How many are the Rebels hoping to add to the roster by next fall?

"We lost three last year and replaced them with two," Wommack said. "We are losing three this year so it will be three or four. We'll see."

Numbers wise, how many do they expect to add at each position within the linebacker group?

"I think it depends more on what size the guys is. Can he be a stinger but grow into a mike? That's what I really like to recruit. I want guys that are long and have speed that can start out at stinger and grow into a mike. We have a couple of long guys who are committed to us this year. We have tried to get more height and more length at those positions so they will not lose any speed when we put some weight on them. That's really the formula for us."

Ole Miss has made a big push to add length at the linebacker position. They have committed Tariqous Tisdale, David Luafatasage and Donta Jackson so far. They are all in the 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-5 range.

"As a defense we are trying to get longer. At corner, safety and everywhere. We are trying to get longer linebackers. You try and get the best players you can get. I'm not saying the shorter guys can't play. We have had several of them on our roster since I've been here and we've been pretty successful. There are a lot of short guys in the NF, but I think over time the durability of a player becomes an issue. If they are longer you can get them bigger and stronger so you don't have so many injuries as they go deeper into their careers. We decided a couple of years ago that we wanted to get longer everywhere."

The Rebels have had a ton of success landing their key targets at just about every position but linebacker since Freeze has taken over. Have they been able to pin point why?

"I don't know if we struggled so much. I look at different things than the services. Who is a 3,4 or 5-Star means little to me. If I can look at one and it takes 35 years of experience, and see if this guy can grow and fit the skills that we need in our scheme. He might not be as highly recruited as someone else might be, but he may fit what we need better. Just like a NFL coach will do with a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. It's the same thing with us. We want to get people who fit our scheme. I think we got some guys who are committed to us right now that really fit our needs."

Is it harder to recruit the linebacker position in a 4-2-5 scheme than a 4-3 or 3-4?

"Well, I don't know. Sometimes you don't have as many you need from a pure numbers standpoint. It's probably harder to recruit that hybrid guy, that husky guy, that is kind of a linebacker and safety than just recruiting a pure linebacker. You can get yourself in a bind if you are not big enough at times. Playing some of the LSU's and Arkansas' of the world, just because of bulk, gave us some problems last year. That's an issue we addressed in the off season. Not only with the linebackers but it's nice to be able to have C.J. Johnson who can play both (DE/MLB) for us. We gain some experience and bulk there at mike. We are allowed to do that because I also know I can take Robert and Fadol and move them to defensive end as well. We can have a big package guys for the defensive line and linebackers, and we can also have a small and quick package for the front seven. That's what I'm looking for. I think our depth now has allowed us to scheme people better from week to week."

Now the goal remains to get longer, as a whole.

"I think that's been a goal for us the past couple years. Trying to get more length at the defensive back and linebacker positions. I don't care about the inside guys, but the defensive ends we want length. When we came here a few years ago. We had what we had and then we built off of that. We really had to recruit more speed before we got more length, and I think you are seeing a transition with us now trying to get longer?

How much has it helped in the recruiting world to have the big star signees playing so well at Ole Miss?

"We tell them to come take their place. I don't know of anyone who wouldn't want to play for coach Hugh Freeze, first of all. I think we have some good coaches on both offense and defense. I think we have proven we can coach them up and put them on the highest level. What player wouldn't want that?


Yancy Porter is the recruiting analyst for the Ole Miss Spirit and he can be reached at yporter@scout.com





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