Rebel DC believes struggles can be, and will be, fixed

The Rebel defense has struggled mightily against the better teams they have faced thus far, culminating last week with a porous performance against Memphis, especially on third downs. Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack is confident the issues can and will be corrected.

"Everything is fixable," Wommack said confidently as he addressed the media after a 'more physical' Tuesday practice. "Our poor tackling cost us five first downs on third down situations. We had some issues at corner where the position was not played the way we coached it. We just have to have some better technique and have some extensive tackling drills and we'll get better.

"Obviously, we have to get better at getting of the field on third downs. It has been a thorn in our side. Some of it is experience. I think we have really good talent on this team, but I don't think we are seeing things as quickly as some of the veterans we had last year. We are pretty good on first and second down, but third down has been an Achilles heel so far."

Wommack said he thinks it could be partly psychological.

"I call it the Steve Sax syndrome. A guy who could not throw from second to first because of a mental block and he had been doing it his whole life," Dave explained. "We have always been pretty good on third downs, but this year, we have not been. We are in the Top 15 in yards per play, which is pretty good, but on third downs, we are poor. 

"We have emphasized that for several weeks, but we haven't found the key. It's almost like we need to quit talking about it. It's like fumbling. Sometimes the less you talk about fumbling the better off you are."

Wommack is pleased with his third down plan.

"We've spent a lot of time studying third downs since last spring - what we want to be in against all formations and looks, the personnels we want. We feel we have a good handle on it, but right now we are not getting it done and that has to change," he said.  

Monday, Coach Hugh Freeze said the practices this week while preparing for Texas A&M would be more physical. Wommack confirmed Tuesday's workout was definitely that.

"We had not tackled in some time, so it was good to go through some tackling circuits, run to the ball and work some tempo situations. We did some things better today," he continued. "It's all about getting there on time and taking proper angles, proper tracks to the ballcarrier. When we do that, we are good enough tacklers, but some of that has been missing. Nobody is shy about hitting or anything like that, we just have not put ourselves in the right positions to make solid tackles. We took bad angles against Florida and then again versus Memphis last Saturday. We have to correct that."

Wommack got some decent news, hopefully, Tuesday when Middle Linebacker C.J. Johnson came back to practice with the hopes of a return this week.

"We told him to do what he could do. He took some reps at middle linebacker and a few at defensvie end in pas rush. It was really good to have him back out there. His leadership really gives us a spark. I am not sure yet what we can get out of him this week but he looked pretty good his first day back. We are hoping for more of the same the rest of the week," Dave stated.

Rover Trae Elston was out with a concussion Tuesday. He is expected to play against A&M, but in case he can't, Wommack is working two youngsters there.

"C.J. Moore and Zedrick Woods are at Rover right now and C.J. Hampton is at free safety. We will leave Mike Hilton at Husky for now," he noted. 

DT Robert Nlkemdiche was not at practice. He was undergoing the first of a series of tests in the concussion protocol. No results were known yet.

The Aggies are next - a spread, tempo team with a high-flying passing game.

"They lost to Alabama last week due to three interceptions, but that is not the norm for them. They always have a pretty good offensive line, excellent receivers and tough running backs. Their QBs can all throw the ball and they scramble well too.," he added. "We will have to be on top of our game this wek for sure."

All eyes will be on the Rebel defense, especially third downs and overall tackling.

Here's hoping Wommack's confidence in fixing the issues comes true. 

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