The Vassallo Interviews — Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor who interviews Oxford’s and our region’s leading personalities.
Steve said, Rebel Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack is no longer the Ole Miss “secret weapon.” The opposition is very much aware when their offenses take the field against the Rebels this fall — game on! As Coach Wommack is preparing for the fall battles, we caught up with him at the IPF.
HottyToddy.com — Coach, there is a fever pitch of anticipation for a big year. Are we being unrealistic too soon into our new coaching staff and rebuilding?
Coach Wommack — The outside expectation is always win-win-win. Our team will definitely be improved. The league we play in demands improvement.
HottyToddy.com — Injuries are always a factor and an unknown element to anticipate. Where do we stand with the injury to Chief Brown?
Coach Wommack — Chief will not be available this year. Going into the spring we were deeper on defense than previously. In the SEC you have to be 2-3 deep across the board. This injury certainly impacts us and will force a younger player to step up. Chief had two different roles for us — that of Huskie and Free Safety.
HottyToddy.com — Coach, you have been here now….how long?
Coach Wommack — Two-and-a-half years. I have now been in coaching 35 years. I love the challenge of being in this league. This program has so much potential. We have a great Head Coach in Hugh Freeze. We all want to be here and be successful. This is an exciting time to be in Oxford.
HottyToddy.com — Coach, how is Oxford agreeing with you and Leslie (Dave’s lovely wife)?
Coach Wommack — We love this community! Especially the people. The downtown and the surroundings appeal to us. We don’t like a larger community as we’re both accustomed to cities the size of Oxford. I grew up in a community 10 miles from Branson (Mo.) while Leslie is from Batesville, Ark.
HottyToddy.com — Can you tell our readers about your background pre-Ole Miss?
Coach Wommack — I was at Arkansas State just prior. I coached at USM for 8 years. I had previously been to Oxford (15-20 times), but never on the Ole Miss campus. I also was at Arkansas for several seasons under Lou Holtz.
HottyToddy.com — Shifting gears to the upcoming season, what can you tell us about Boise State?
Coach Wommack — Our review is already done in preparation. Their new Head Coach was at Arkansas State last year and he was the Offensive Coordinator at Texas two years ago. More study will be forthcoming as we continue to prepare.
HottyToddy.com — How does it feel returning to Nashville?
Coach Wommack — Our kids are looking forward to this, especially playing in an NFL stadium.
HottyToddy.com — The fans are always concerned about August injuries. Are there precautions we can take to minimize these?
Coach Wommack — The players get a nice long break before fall practice. However, workouts continue all summer long in the form of running and conditioning. Our Strength Coach has done an exceptional job in getting us ready for fall practice.
HottyToddy.com — One of the major football magazines has just hit the stores. They are very optimistic about the 2014 Ole Miss Rebels.
Coach Wommack — We are getting to the point athletically where we need to be. We have not had the opportunity yet to stack up the number of recruiting classes where we need to be. However, we are headed in the right direction.
HottyToddy.com — The five difficult games starting with Alabama without a break would be a challenge for any team.
Coach Wommack — In this league you have to compete against all of these. You cannot win a championship in the SEC without a great defense. We have some returning players and some new ones that we will be counting on heavily to make a positive difference.
HottyToddy.com — What is game day like for you?
Coach Wommack — It’s like taking a test. I study all the formations continuously. I try to keep an even keel as the players know what is going on. I have the same prayer routine I practice daily.
HottyToddy.com — Returning to the predictions for a minute, the magazine I referred to earlier has us picked ahead of LSU.
Coach Wommack.— All too often some of those forecasting do not have all the insights. We would definitely rather play them here. The road is more difficult.
HottyToddy.com — I would be remiss not to ask you about Oct. 4th and Alabama coming to Oxford.
Coach Wommack..— We have to take things one step at a time. We cannot look down the road, but we are conditioning ourselves when that day arrives. You can make the season as hard or as simple as you want. We must play one play at a time. Staying focused is critical.
HottyToddy.com — Coach, with this staff, making the correct half-time adjustments seems easy for you.
Coach Wommack.— We learn from our previous mistakes. We have good, experienced coaches here. We take the time necessary to fix what needs to be fixed. We also spend time with Coach Freeze during each half time.
HottyToddy.com — How is our overall team speed comparable to the rest of college football?
Coach Wommack — We are moving forward. We have definitely helped ourselves and continuing to improve.
HottyToddy.com — Any personal info of interest to our readers?
Coach Wommack..—Leslie and I have made plans to retire here at some point in the future. We have been married for 30 years. Our daughter, Hayley, is getting married on June 28th. She just received her Master’s in Exercise Science. She and her husband to-be will live here. My son is the Defensive Coordinator at Eastern Illinois. He was a graduate assistant here in 2013. We were blessed with our first grandchild on January 5th. Asher is the son of Kane and Melissa Wommack.
Let’s hope for us Rebel fans that retirement is a long way away! When our defense is on the field, we can be confident that they have been prepared as humanly possible!