OXFORD, Miss. — “So, it’s game week. It’s game week. It’s time to go.”
That’s how a smiling MoMo Sanogo began his time at the podium yesterday after practice. It’s obvious the junior linebacker and his teammates are ready for the season to start. The always affable MoMo then offered his thoughts on how the linebackers have done in fall camp and what he expects to see in the upcoming season opener against Memphis.
Sanogo proud of ILB Donta Evans
In the first game-week depth chart of the season, 6-foot-2, 244-pound Donta Evans is listed as the co-starter with MoMo at inside linebacker, while JUCO transfer Lakia Henry is listed as the starter next to him at the other inside linebacker spot in the 3-4 base defense.
How does MoMo — the young man who led the team in tackles last season with 112 — feel about being listed as “OR” on the depth chart as co-starter with the junior, Evans? Well, MoMo made it clear he is ecstatic to have such a strong linebacking corps this season to help carry the load.
“That’s the energy we are trying to carry in the linebacker room,” Sanogo responded.
“Right now, coaches want us to look at it as we have five starters that when we rotate off and on the field, the other team shouldn’t know. They should feel like they are in trouble, regardless.“
MoMo Sanogo on depth at inside linebacker
“We aren’t trying to play with two guys like last year. We want to make sure we are rotating everybody fresh. On all my plays, I want to be fresh and running full speed,” he added.
Evans, the 6-foot-1, 233-pound junior linebacker out of Lawrenceville, Georgia, appears ready to have his breakout season this fall. So what has Sanogo seen in Evans that has allowed him to be headed toward meaningful snaps this season? “It’s more so his work ethic,” MoMo said.
“Two years ago, he played his freshman year and the coaches didn’t like what they saw. And he put his head down and he’s worked every single day for the past two years for this moment. He’s come an exponentially long way.”
MoMo Sanogo on the rise of Donta Evans
Sanogo continued to talk glowingly about Evans.
“I’m so proud of him. He’s been there to help me since my freshman year. We’re pushing each other, calling and watching film together, and we’re both helping Lakia (Henry). He’s been an outstanding guy, and he’s never put his head down once and now he’s worked his way back up.
“He has been easily one of the hardest workers on the team, and he’s really stepped up and he is doing a great job—and now we’ve got a little two-headed monster at the inside linebacker position, so I’m happy about that,” MoMo said, smiling.
Getting an occasional breather
Sanogo spent all of last year virtually unable to ever leave the field in a game, even to catch his breath, as the defense desperately needed his leadership and his tackles.
Does he enjoy the fact that it appears he may not have to take every single snap on defense this fall? “Most definitely,” he said smiling.
“I maybe got four snaps off in some of the games last year. (This year) being able to go rotate and go tag team the other team, that’s fun. I don’t know about anybody else but that’s fun for me.”
MoMo Sanogo on deep linebacking unit
Sanogo’s praise for his teammates didn’t stop with Evans. He continued to talk fondly about inside linebacker Henry as well as outside linebacker Qaadir Sheppard. “He (Henry) came in physically ready to play, trying to hit everybody he saw. That’s the type of guy he is. He’s been really willing to learn and sit in the film room with me,” said Sanogo. “I’m just trying to make sure he’s the utmost ready he can be. He’s been all willing for it,” he continued.
Sheppard, who suffered a broken hand earlier in camp, is wearing a club to protect it, just as MoMo did last season. Sanogo was asked if he had any advice to offer about playing with the cast.
“Q (Sheppard) is a little monster,” said MoMo. “He doesn’t need anybody’s advice. He just runs, hits and plays his hardest. He’s ready to go.”
Before the interview was over, MoMo was asked about the point spread favoring Memphis by 5 to 6.5 points. Sanogo didn’t shy away from the question about being underdogs. “They’re going to say what they’re going to say,” he said.
“They’ve got to put that out for the media. They don’t know. They’re going to find out. Memphis is a great team, all credit to them. But we’re coming for them.”
MoMo Sanogo on the Rebels’ underdog status
One thing is for sure, the Ole Miss linebacker corps is much more talented and deeper than it has been in recent memory. Don’t be shocked to see this Landshark defense slow down the Tigers’ rushing attack on Saturday. We won’t be!
MoMo Sanogo talks after practice Wednesday, August 28. (Video: Derrell Hart, The Rebel Walk)