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Ole Miss Football Defense Shows Depth

HottyToddy.com file photo
HottyToddy.com file photo

After ranking as the No. 1 scoring defense in the country last year, the Ole Miss Rebels are expecting more of the same, if not an improvement, in 2015. The preseason nationally ranked football team went through a two-hour practice session Friday morning inside the Manning Center, as the Sept. 5 opener looms just more than two weeks away.

“I’m pleased we’ve got about everything in that we have in our playbook, so we have a lot of inventory,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said after practice. “And the guys this week have done a great job of executing and getting better and better out there.”

Wommack talked to reporters about each level of the defense – line, linebackers, secondary – and noted that all three levels have better depth and speed than in previous seasons.

The defensive line, which was regarded as one of the best in the land a year ago, could be an improved unit this fall.

“I think we improved ourselves from last year because of Breeland (Speaks) and D.J. (Jones),” Wommack said. “It’s a good D-Line that can be more physical and bigger at times or faster with the speed rushers with Marquis (Haynes) and C.J. Johnson.”

After concerns in the spring that the linebacker corps may not have enough depth behind projected starters C.J. Johnsonand Denzel Nkemdiche, Wommack praised the group Friday.

“I’m really not concerned about (depth at linebacker), because Ray Ray Smith has really come on strong and (DeMarquis) Gates and Tayler Polk, who I have a lot of confidence in. Christian (Russell) has gotten better, as well as Temario (Strong) and Terry Caldwell. I really have a difficult situation because I have seven to eight guys who are pretty good, and I really need to limit some of the reps so four to five of them get really good. It’s been very competitive and I think that helps them get better. We have a very athletic group of guys.”

Wommack pointed out C.J. Hampton, Zedrick Woods, A.J. Moore and C.J. Moore as contributors behind the starters in the backfield.

“I think we can play more people back there than we have in the last three years,” he said.

Receivers coach Grant Heard updated the group on the progress of some of his pupils, saying that Laquon Treadwell looks as good as he did before his injury and maybe even better because of a few shed pounds. He also noted that Damore’ea Stringfellow has had a good fall camp.

“It’s great to have him. He’s been practicing great,” Heard said of Stringfellow.

Heard said the playing rotation at wideout has not been determined, but ideally there would be at least eight receivers in that rotation, at minimum six.

Notes and tidbits:

  • Wommack is really high on redshirt-freshman lineman Breeland Speaks, saying he considers Speaks a starter (along with seven other linemen).
  • Senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is 100 percent healthy and ready to play on Saturdays.
  • Senior C.J. Johnson is practicing at Mike linebacker and defensive end. Wommack said he’s doing a great job of leading the team.
  • Five players are in the main rotation at cornerback, including sophomore Kendarius Webster, who Wommack said “might be the overall best one.” The others are Tony Bridges, Tee Shepard, Carlos Davis and Kailo Moore.
  • Junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has had “great energy,” according to his position coach Grant Heard.
  • Heard said sophomores Markell Pack and Damore’ea Stringfellow have both become more comfortable with the offense and the tempo since last year.
  • Heard said freshman wideouts Van Jefferson and DaMarkus Lodge have looked “like freshmen.”
  • Senior offensive tackle Fahn Cooper has been taking reps at both left and right tackle and is more comfortable at both positions. He said he’s dropped about 20 pounds from last season, which has helped him with the speed of the tempo offense. “You can make decisions faster. In the SEC, that helps you out a lot.


Follow Ole Miss Football on Twitter (@OleMissFB) and Facebook (Facebook.com/OleMissFootball), in addition to www.OleMissSports.com.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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