After a long season of blood, sweat and tears, the Rebels are finally ready to end the year at the Sugar Bowl.
There are just a few more days until the Rebels’ fate unfolds, but I have a feeling the Rebels will be alright. What I have seen in the short time from the coaches and the players is a raw hunger that yearns to finish strong for the Rebel Nation.
The Sugar Bowl will be an interesting showdown between the Rebels and the Cowboys. Here is Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack’s take on what we can expect to see from the Rebels defensively in today’s Sugar Bowl Snapshot.
On the Sugar Bowl experience thus far: “I think it’s been great. I have been in the hotel most of the time or coaching, but I think that the kids are really enjoying it. I told them my first bowl game ever was the Sugar Bowl in 1980, and I said you have to be careful out there and go out there with two or three different people.
But I think it’s a great experience for them.”
On preparing for a dual quarterback offense: “Yeah, I think it kind of reminds me of playing Georgia Tech a little bit. It takes a little bit more preparation. So it’s been good for us to have more time, because when we broke them down, we kind of broke them down as two separate entities. And we have been able to formulate game plan for each of them and put in enough things that we feel liking we can adjust whatever we need to do.”
On what Oklahoma State players aside from the QBs could pose a threat to the Rebels: “There’s not just one. I see (Marcell) Ateman be able to go get it, and No. 28, absolutely, (James) Washington. And I think 13 (David Glidden) is a heck of a football player too. I think he is a competitor. So my answer to that would be the receiving crew.”
On the offensive depth of Oklahoma State: “Well, you know, you watch Marcell (Ateman). And he will catch a ball. What do they say? A black marble in the dark. And, boy, he has a way to go get that football. And I believe it’s (David) Glidden, 13. And they move him around a little bit. And the leading receiver I didn’t mention him – (James) Washington and (Brandon) Sheperd, and they go on and on. So, yeah, that’s the strength of their team.”
On Oklahoma State’s run game: “I think they searched a little bit, trying to find ways to run it. I think they’re extremely well coached. And I think they play to their strengths extremely well. That’s the best way to answer the question. So even though they haven’t been as effective running the football, they certainly have compensated with it with the big plays in the perimeter with the receivers.”
On capitalizing on Oklahoma State’s weakness this season: “Again it depends on who is at quarterback. I mean you have got Walsh (JW), who is the second leading rusher on the team and they changed a little bit. But then you throw in the Oklahoma game at the end of the year and he throws it decent enough to give them a run. I think they had to throw it. They got behind in that game. But you have to have two different plans. You really do. And I think they can run the football effectively. It’s just that they have had so much success throwing it. I mean, 357 yards a game throwing it, why would you run it?”
On how comfortable are the Rebels with defending against an uptempo offense from the Cowboys: “It’s hard to tell. You can look at the clock and the watch to see how fast they’re going at times. We certainly prepared for it. But you never know until you get into that situation. But we have always when we put in our defense, we always have just like an offense does, we have calls and we have ten calls that we can go to in all of our different packages. And it allows us to be multiple. So we’re not just vanilla when they go fast like a lot of teams are. We like to pressure and mix it up.”
On the loss of Robert Nkemdiche in this game and the effect in terms of schematics and the depth chart: “I think it’s depth. When you’re trying to play eight guys up front and rolling them and, you know, you lose it’s not just Nkemdiche. For us in the season, we lost Issac Gross, who was a very important part of our defense before the season even started. And you know had issues with Fadol, and then him being juried and now Robert. So it cuts the eight guys down to fewer guys. So we had to create some different packages, so I may not have as many defensive linemen in the game at times and do some different things to be able to shore up and handle their tempo and everything.”
On the loss of Robert for the game and how the team has rallied together: “It’s kind of been one of those years for us. We lost C.J. Johnson for three games and we lost Issac Gross before the season started, who was very important to what we do up front. So for us it’s kind of been like the next guy up. And that’s kind of the way the year has been for us, and our guys look forward to the challenge. We have taken a different approach in this game than we did last year. I know we have. And we want to have a chance to win this game, and I think we have prepared accordingly.”
On the Robert Nkemdiche as a player and on his character: “He is a good kid. There was really no entitlement with him. A lot of times, you get the top guy in the nation, it’s one of those situations where, man, you have to de recruit them and start over. But really we had a lot of the top number one guys that year in recruiting, and we were very fortunate. There wasn’t a lot of entitlement with him. And very easy to coach. Loves the game of football. But made a mistake, made himself a costly mistake. And the next guy moves up and we think we have got very good football players, not just Robert Nkemdiche.”
On the value of a player like CJ Johnson when there is a shortage on depth: “He has been valuable to us all year long, whether you’re playing Texas A&M one week or you’re seeing all empty sets, and the next week you’re playing LSU and you’re seeing, you know, that monster of a running back running right at you. He has in my room, the linebacker room, but, you know, I can coach him at both positions and he has so much experience at defensive end, he can do that as well. So we’re multiple enough. I mean, we can be 3 4 or 4 2 or 4 3 or a 3 3 team, and, you know, that helps us when we do lose people at different spots.”
On Breeland being an impact player for the Rebels: “Breeland (Speaks) is a very talented guy. I think when we started recruiting him, he wanted to play linebacker. And then everybody knew that he was kind of moving and where he was going and all of that stuff. But extremely athletic, and we have been blessed. I think I have said this before about those guys. From my whole career, I never had guys like that, that were as athletic as like a Breeland is. Fadol is returning next year, and having some of those guys makes all the difference. You’re not going to win in the SEC unless you have a great D line.”
On what to expect from Marquis Haynes in this third year: “Same thing as you know, the experience that I’m talking about, understanding the game more and more. Kip is doing a good job with him, and I think he will play even a bigger role for us.:
On the growth of the team since 2011: “I remember walking in and kids were coming off of a break and getting a chance to see them run for the first time. And I will just be honest with you. I almost threw up. It was that bad. And there was a lot of academic issues, and we were worried about who was going to play and who was going to be eligible and all those things. And we went into spring football, and it was about like that, many days that you wanted. And we were trying to find who could play where. I can remember Cody Prewitt, the second day of spring ball, turned his ankle real bad. And we didn’t have enough depth. And he kind of worked through it, and I’m thinking all summer he is going to have to move down to playing linebacker. So there’s a huge difference than it was four years ago.”
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at email@example.com.