"We got embarrassed last year in the Peach Bowl," Dave noted. "Certainly the coaches, players and fans are expecting better than that showing and I think we got off to a good start with the on-campus practices. I liked the way the kids approached things, I liked our plan as a staff. I like our plan moving forward to New Orleans and the time we will spend there. I think we learned from the things we went through last year. It was a tough lesson, but I think we grew because of it."
Wommack knows the Rebel defense has its hands full with Oklahoma State and the high-flying Cowboy offense that averages around 41 points a game.
"They go as fast as anyone we haved played. I would say they are a lot like TCU last year from the standpoint that they get that tempo going on you pretty quickly," he continued. "They really rev it up after a big play. They get back to the line of scrimmage immediately. I've seen DBs running from deep routes just trying to get lined up in time against them. We have definitely prepared for their tempo game and will have to continue to do so."
During the on-campus practices, the Rebels ran a lot of Red Ball - their tempo offense, against Wommack's D and that has helped, Dave said.
"The offense has been going really fast in practices and then when the series was over, we'd get our guys to run sprints to get in even more speed work and conditioning, and then put them right back on the ball," he explained. "I'm impressed with OSU's offense. They like to throw the ball deep and they have receivers who will go get it. They make a lot of plays over 20 yards. In one game, they had 12. 11 in another, 10 in yet another. They are a big-play offense for sure."
The Rebels are going to be without three stalwarts in this game - DE Fadol Brown, Husky Tony Conner and DT Robert Nkemdiche. Brown and Conner just had offseason surgery and Nkemdiche was suspended for off-the-field issues and has declared for the NFL.
"In the trenches, we will have to rely more on Breeland Speaks to take up Robert's slack. We will probably go with a three-man rotation at tackle for the most part with Woodrow Hamilton, David Jones and Speaks. We have Ross Donnelly ready to help too," noted Wommack. "That position has taken a toll with Issac Gross lost for the year, Herbert Moore lost for the year and now Rob now gone, but we are blessed there. We will be a little thin up front for the bowl game, but we should be OK.
"At defensive end, we will probably put C.J. Johnson there more to take up the slack for Fadol and we will use Victor Evans more. Mike Hilton will play Husky for Tony, like he has most of the year. We'll be OK. Our goal is to get off the field as quickly as possible to stay rested and let our offense go to work."
The Ole Miss staff used the on-campus bowl practices to get some extended looks at the "young guys" as well.
"I was disappointed we didn't get a look at (CB) Jalen Julius (knee scope) and (DT) Austrian (Robinson, knee scope), but we did get some good reps for the rest of them. I already knew a lot about Jalen - he's explosive and he may be the best man-to-man cover guy we have right now. He is very good in man," Wommack noted. "Shawn Curtis has shown me something at middle linebacker. He's got mass and his skill set is good. He runs well - he just has to learn and turn it loose, which he has not done yet. He's kind of a perfectionist and is thinking a lot. I just hope he quits growing and I can keep him at linebacker.
"Donnelly has turned out to be better than we anticipated this soon. We like him for the future. Armani Linton is at free safety and he has good tools as well. He just has to learn. He's another one who doesn't need to get much bigger or he will be looking at playing Stinger LB. Montrell Custis is working at Husky and we really like him. He' s got cornerback skills at the Husky slot. He reminds us of Mike Hilton and we'd sure like to have another one like Mike.I like the guys we redshirted this year and think they have good futures."
But first things first.
The Sugar Bowl. . . .
"We've got a chance to get our tenth win in just our fourth season," he closed. "I'm really proud of that, but we have to go down there and do it. The Sugar Bowl is special for anyone in the SEC and I know Ole MIss has a great tradition there. We are looking forward to the challenge and creating a new tradition."