Rebels’ defense prepares for up-tempo Auburn offense

Posted on Oct 2 2013 - 6:41am by Matt Sigler

No. 24 Ole Miss will travel to Auburn this weekend in a Southeastern Conference clash, but what it will see from Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC) offensively could seem eerily familiar to what Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 SEC) will be bringing to the table. The Tigers are also a zone read-based team, and this could prove to be beneficial for the Rebels in their preparation for the game.

“They just keep building it and building it each game,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said of Auburn’s offense. “So there is more that is getting put in. I think (head coach) Gus (Malzahn) does a great job with the offense, just like (Ole Miss head coach) Hugh (Freeze). They are close and there are a lot of things similar, but there is enough things that are different that you have to spend time with the scout team too.”

Auburn also attempts to push the limits as far as tempo goes in-game, which is similar to what Ole Miss attempts to do offensively. Wommack said this will definitely give the Rebels a step up in preparing for them, especially being able to practice against their own up-tempo style of play.

“We do a lot of fast-tempo stuff,” Wommack said. “It will certainly help us. There are all different kinds of tempos though, and they can catch you sleeping, so you have to pay attention the whole time.”

Auburn will be led by junior quarterback Nick Marshall, who is in his first year of action for the Tigers after playing in junior college. On the year he is 60-for-103 with four touchdowns and four interceptions through the air, but he is also dangerous on the ground with 191 yards on 41 carries.

“I watched the first game and thought, ‘Man, this guy can’t throw a lick,’” Wommack said. “But then they played Arkansas State and you could see improvement, and then they played Mississippi State and you saw a lot of improvement.

“I think he is doing a really good job for the amount of time he’s been in that scheme, and again, they run a lot of offense.”

Perhaps the most dangerous weapon for the Tigers will be junior running back Tre Mason. The former highly touted recruit from Florida leads Auburn in rushing this season with 344 yards on 65 carries and also has a team-high four rushing touchdowns. He has also added five catches out of the backfield for 38 yards.

“I think he is strong,” Wommack said of Mason. “He’s not really tall and is kind of hard to find sometimes, but he plays with a passion, he is a tough guy. I think their whole trio of backs is absolutely one of their strengths.”

Injury Updates

Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson injured his ankle during the game this past weekend, and he did not practice Tuesday and is in a boot. Freeze said Johnson feels OK but listed him as “day-to-day.”

Freeze said sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche “feels better” after returning to action against Alabama this weekend for the first time since tearing his meniscus in the season opener.

Nkemdiche played in 26 snaps against the Crimson Tide and has had no swelling in his knee, according to Freeze.

Robert Nkemdiche broke his finger against Alabama, but Freeze said it didn’t look like it slowed the freshman defensive end down in practice.