OXFORD, Miss. – For 38 years, Dave Wommack has been calling defensive plays from the press box, and over those years the defensive coordinator has experienced his share of great seasons–as well as ones that were more frustrating. Wommack, now, feels it’s time to walk away.
In Wommack’s soul, he believes it is time to retire from coaching after working close to four decades at nine different schools.
On Saturday before kickoff in the Egg Bowl, the Ole Miss defensive coordinator/linebackers coach announced his retirement. Two seasons ago Wommack’s Landshark defense led the nation in scoring defense (16.0 points per game) and allowed the fewest touchdowns (24). The Rebels also led the Southeastern Conference in interceptions (22), turnovers forced (32), tackles for loss (7.6 per game) and opponent third-down conversion (33 percent).
“I wanted to go out the right way, so in 2014 when we had the No. 1 defense in the country, I thought ‘man, this is the time.’ But my wife wouldn’t let me, so all of this is her fault,” Wommack said, jokingly.
A look back
As Ole Miss’ defensive dominance propelled the program to the Peach Bowl, its first-ever New Year’s Six Bowl, following the 2014 season, Wommack felt it was only right for him to come back and keep coaching since he was having so much fun coaching kids who wanted to play for him.
In 2015, the Landshark defense finished with 15 interceptions – which ranked 23rd in FBS – with four of them returned for touchdowns. The four pick-sixes tied a school record that dates back to 1938. The defense ranked in the top three among SEC teams in tackles for loss (8.1 per game – 7th in NCAA) and takeaways (23 – tied 38th in NCAA). Ole Miss defeated Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, the second-straight appearance for the Rebels in a New Year’s Six Bowl.
After Wommack was hired, the defense improved every year. In 2012, the Rebels finished the season first in the SEC and fourth nationally in tackles for loss (7.9 per game) and second in the SEC and 11th nationally in sacks (2.9 per game). In 2013, Ole Miss allowed fewer points per game (23.7) than it did the previous year and ranked in the top 40 nationally in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense.
Wommack was still having fun coaching on the defensive side after the 2015 season, so he decided to postpone his retirement for another year. However, 2016 was not nearly as enjoyable as the past two seasons.
As a whole, the Rebels’ defense finished the 2016 season tied with Mississippi State in the nation in total defense, giving up 461.3 yards per game, ranking them 110th in FBS. The Bulldogs’ win over the Rebels in the Egg Bowl prevented Ole Miss (5-7, 2-6 SEC) from becoming bowl eligibile.
“It was a tough year,” Wommack said after the conclusion of the Egg Bowl on Saturday.
“But, hopefully I was able to teach these kids some lessons. I hope I showed them integrity, character, and being steady throughout while I coached.”
Dave Wommack, Ole Miss defensive coordinator
Much-deserved time with family
With that being said, Wommack, now, looks forward to life without football on his agenda for 365 days a year. Instead of coaching for 12 regular season games, and running defensive sets during the spring and fall, Wommack can spend time with his family.
“I just want to be able to go out and enjoy life,” Wommack said. “There are so many demands put on coaches in this great profession. My son is in it and obviously, some of my friends are in it. I’m 60 now, and I probably work like I’m 80 or 85 years old. I deserve a little time off.”
Dave Wommack praises Hugh Freeze
Wommack was effusive in his praise for the Rebels’ head coach, Hugh Freeze.
“I think he’s an awesome individual and this profession needs more people like him. I saw the people he surrounded himself with. I was just fortunate to get on there and do that.”
Dave Wommack on Hugh Freeze
Reaction from players
“I think they were surprised,” Wommack said. “Some of them were; some of them weren’t. I think in some ways they are disappointed, but I think it’s time for something fresh and new from the defensive standpoint, and I’m excited to see who they bring in and how they put this thing together.”
“There were many of them,” Wommack said.
“The ones from here were obviously beating Alabama two years in a row, especially that first year here, the electricity of it. I thought the Sugar Bowl was huge.”
Dave Wommack on favorite memories
Wommack also mentioned another game that some may have forgotten–the 2013 contest in Austin vs. the Texas Longhorns. In 2012, Ole Miss lost to Texas at Vaught-Heminway, 66-31, but went on the road the following year and defeated the Longhorns 44-23 in a rematch.
“I will tell you a game that was really important–we had looked so bad that first year and didn’t have all of our players we needed–was against Texas and being around to turn it around. To me, that was a big game. There were a lot of them. I will look back on them. It will take a few days. This one (loss in Egg Bowl) stings, going out this way. But, I guess this was the way it was meant to be.”
(Feature image credit: 247Sports)