Petre Thomas

Defense, obviously, struggling, but Wommack keeps plugging away

The Ole Miss defense has been in a tailspin recently, it goes without saying. Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack is as frustrated as anyone over the results thus far and is working to correct things.

It's a simple question, but pertinent because of the state of the Ole Miss defense right now. 

Where is this 2016 defense and where is it going? Unfortunately, the answers may not be as simple as the question.

"We are just trying to get out there and get better every day," said DC Dave Wommack, with frustration in his eyes. "It's been difficult. We have been moving people around some trying to find some combinations that will give us the best chance to win, but it's been so up and down, more so than any defense I have ever coached."

Focus? Concentration? Knowledge? Understanding? Scheme? What is the issue, in Wommack's estimation.

"We change our schemes every week to match what the opponent likes to do, you have to do that," he noted, "but sometimes with the youth we have, it doesn't set in. I think it is a combination of things. There's still some youth issue going on, there are some ability issues going on and there are some issues with not knowing what to do in certain situations. One week you are playing an I-formation team that runs it down your throat and the next you are playing a triple option team with tons of movement and formations.

"That's what we are dealing with and it reminds me of our first year here when we were dealing with so many young guys and the learning process. I remember our first year when Texas came in here and just ran all over us. We were so young and inexperienced. It wasn't that we were overmatched physically, we were just in the wrong places at the wrong times too many times. The following year, we went out to Austin and did a number on them as our kids got more experience. I'm seeing a lot of the same things this year."

Wommack said there's only one way to get out of these doldrums.

"We have to stay positive and continue to work our way through this thing. I'd say 95% of them have a great attitude about it and are trying to make themselves better," he explained. "You have to look at adversity as something positive, a learning experience. It's not fun going through it right now, but we will get there. It's been a painful process so far though, no doubt. Our defensive staff hasn't slept much lately, but whatever it takes to fix it, we are going to do our best. We aren't here to lose and to play this way, I think we proved that in our first four years here."

Wommack has a lot of respect for Auburn's offense, an offense that rushed for over 500 yards on Arkansas last week.

"They are very talented with a lot of weapons. They played Clemson tough in the opening game, didn't play a great game at Texas A&M two weeks later and started out 1-2, but since then, they have played really good football on both sides of the ball. The tempo they run their offense at is very difficult for a defense, like ours is on opposing defenses," he said. "I think they will do what they do. They will run the ball and play-action in the passing game. They will base what they do on what we do defensively and it will be a chess game.

"It helps us that Coach (Hugh) Freeze knows their offensive system and can come into our meeting room and give us some more insight on what Auburn likes to do. That helped a lot in our gameplanning. This is a difficult offense on linebackers because there is a lot of eye candy where they are flashing guys across the field and they try to keep you from getting a key on one person. They do a really good job with all of the motions and movement and when you couple that with there's not a lot of thinking time between plays it makes this a very tough offense to defense."

Weapons, Auburn has plenty.

"It's what they do. They can hit you from so many angles and with so many different skill players. They have excellent backs and their wideouts are contributing in a lot of ways - on reverses, jet sweeps and in the passing game," he noted. "It's not difficult to come up with a scheme that should work against them, but it's difficult to get a young defense to execute it. When you have a veteran defense, you can be multiple and give them a lot of different looks that can confuse them some. We did that last year over there at their place.

"But we are going to have to keep it simpler and make sure we can fit our gaps. You have to be smart and have some different looks, but you can't put too many in there that your kids can't execute due to inexperience."

So what is the common mistake on the Rebel defense?

"Our lack of communication is hurting us. The other night against LSU, they hit us with a long TD throw against one of our base coverages we run every day but it didn't get communicated correctly on the back end and we blew it. That has happened to us quite a bit this year, and not just on the back end," Dave noted. .

Finally, Dave was asked it he has thought about coming down to the field and coaching from there.

"I have absolutely thought about that on many occasions, but my ability to see things from the press box has kept me up there," he ended.

Hopefully this is the week the Reb defense snaps out of their slump, but Auburn is going to present yet another strong challenge and, to top it off, they are on a roll.

Hopefully, playing at home will make a difference.

Hopefully, some hard work in practice this week will correct some of the issues that have haunted that side of the ball most of the season.


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