Petre Thomas

Wommack to try yet another linebacker combination

Throughout this season, Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack has been searching for linebackers who can get the job done. This week, he will try yet another combination with graduate transfer Rommel Mageo finally getting his shot nine games into the campaign.

After watching and dissecting the Auburn game film, Ole Miss DC Dave Wommack saw more of the same - explosive plays by the Tiger offense and poor play by the Rebel linebackers.

"Same story, different verse," said Wommack. "First play of the game, we had a guy step into the hole just like he is supposed to, hits the back, bounces off and he's off to the races. If you give up big plays, you aren't going to be successful and you are going to struggle to win and that has been our story this year.

"That was Willie (Hibbler), who we started even though we weren't sure if he was ready. We needed to find out. We found out he wasn't ready for that type of challenge. It is big boy football and you have to be mentally and physically prepared. I think Willie will be a good one in time, but it will obviously take some more time." 

Wommack has tried just about everything at linebacker this year. DeMarquis Gates, Terry Caldwell, Hibbler, Tayler Polk and Detric Bing-Dukes has all started at one time or another. There's really only one more option, of true linebackers, to try and that will be done this week against Georgia Southern in the form of graduate transfer Rommel Mageo.

"We are looking for someone. Lately, he has been playing more physical than some of the other guys and he has been busting his butt in practice to learn everything," Dave stated. "It's been a merry-go-round. We are searching and I think he has finally gotten down the stuff we need him to get down.

"He got here in the middle of the summer and it's just been a lot to learn. We have tried to keep things as simple as possible, but in this league you have to be multiple enough to use different personnel packages and different schemes within your system and all that takes time to learn. He's been listening in meetings and picking things up little by little and now maybe he's got things down pat. We will have a simple gameplan against an option team this week, so that will help. We will see how it works out."

Linebacker has not been the only mystery on this defense, ranked last in the SEC in total yardage allowed.

At the end of last season, there was evidence that DT Breeland Speaks would be the second coming of Robert Nkemdiche, or at least in the same ball park, but so far that has not panned out.

"He's got to battle back. He has lost 32 pounds since summer after having a great spring and summer," explained Dave. "Now, Benito (Jones) has beaten him out and we are going to find out how tough he is mentally and if he wants to battle back."

On Tuesday, Gates, who is hobbling a bit with a knee issue, was practicing at Stinger alongside Mageo. His status?

"He's out there giving it what he's got but I think he's having to push through pain," noted Wommack. "We'll see how it goes moving forward, but it looks as if he will play this week."

The Rebel defense got DE Fadol Brown back for a few reps against LSU and then a few more against Auburn. The hope is to get even more against Georgia Southern and then more moving forward.

"He's done pretty good. It has been nice to have his mass and size back in there and we hope he can play more moving forward, he brings a lot to the table when he's right, but the issue has not been the D-line. We did have one missed fit against Auburn that cost us a big run, but most of the time, it has been on the linebackers," said Dave bluntly.

So what about Georgia Southern and their option attack?

"They run the option multiple ways out of multiple formations. It is totally different from what we saw against Wofford," Dave noted. "They also have SEC speed with their skill players. They will present a lot of challenges for us, especially when you consider the way we have been struggling.

"Maybe this week will be the week we get more things right."

Wommack is still searching, shuffling the linebacker deck once again.

Here's hoping this week holds part of the cure to the LB woes.


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