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Wommack preparing for Outback Bowl, assembling staff at South Alabama

Wommack preparing for Outback Bowl, assembling staff at South Alabama

If coaching does not work out for Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack, he might want to consider a career in the circus. He is proving to be an expert juggler, pulling off an impressive balancing act.

Wommack will be leaving the Hoosiers after the Outback Bowl against Ole Miss to become the head coach at South Alabama.

Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack yells during overtime Nov. 30 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. IU defeated Purdue 44-41. (Photo credit: Alex Deryn)

Serving two masters has Wommack both preparing for the explosive Ole Miss offense and putting together a coaching staff for his new job.

“It is unique to be able to have that right, and to have a resource in (2019 IU offensive coordinator and current head coach at Fresno State) Kalen DeBoer and of course we talked about those things a lot last year and had talked last week as well,” Wommack said.

“Certainly, there are some things that have to be juggled. I think Tom Allen has been great about that and there were a lot of things I was able to do last week as I got down to Mobile to get to secure a lot of staff members that we did yesterday. Certainly, coordinators in Corey Batoon and Major Applewhite. That was great to be able to knock that out and have those guys on board.

“And then you are trying to make sure that you are taking care of those players down there and still doing right by our players here and making sure that we finish well. This is a group of guys here at Indiana that I care deeply for, and I think as I get older and I have spent my longest tenure at a program with these players and seen most of them coming in from true freshmen, it means something really special to be able to finish well with these guys. So, certainly there are long hours and a little less sleep, but there is a lot of excitement both for our program and obviously personally, so excited to work.”

Batoon spent 2017 on Kiffin’s staff at Florida Atlantic and was an assistant at Ole Miss for five years. Wommack is used to working with former Rebel coaches. He was on Hugh Freeze’s staff in Oxford and coaches at Indiana with former Ole Miss coaches Grant Heard and Jason Jones.

But before he can immerse himself in his new job in Mobile, he has some unfinished business for his current employer. Wommack is tasked with stopping an Ole Miss offense that is averaging 562.4 yards per game and scores more than 40 per contest.

“I think they (Ole Miss) have got a number of things,” Wommack said.

Offensive weapons, their tempo. I think what Coach Lane Kiffin and (offensive coordinator) Jeff Lebby do offensively is cutting edge, and I think they are ahead of the game right now in terms of offensive fire power, and they are explosive. They are dedicated to it, which I think is a big part of creating explosives on offense. They are just simply dedicated to it. They go about things schematically and they push the ball down field. I think they have got a very explosive quarterback. There are times when you have got to be able to find some ways to create some confusion for him, but at the same time when he gets going, he is pretty good, and he has got a lot of weapons around him that they can utilize. I think they do a great job of finding ways to get their playmakers the ball, and they have got a number of them.

Indiana DC Kane Wommack

Wommack also has the disadvantage of a limited time to prepare for a bowl game.

“You think about the time that you normally have — you have about double the time to prepare for a bowl game,” Wommack said. “I think two weeks is good. It is enough time. You feel like it is like a bye week without the other opponent having an extra game to play. So, obviously equal opportunity from that standpoint, but very excited to kind of get going.”

Wommack’s father Dave Wommack was Ole Miss’ former defensive coordinator, and he gave his son valuable advice on the time off before the bowl game.

My dad taught me this a long time ago. You get lulled into that, I have got a month or I have got two weeks before the game plan. I am treating this week like a full on in-season game plan, because you want to make sure that you are as prepared as possible, and then as you get into next week, then it is about clean up. And I think what we have always been in our defensive system — probably a lot of credit to my dad and the way he has always operated in bowl games — we have always been very well prepared and I think it is because we maximize our time particularly on the front end so that we can find those little details in the days right before the game that can make the difference in winning and losing.”

Coach Kane Wommack

Winning is something Wommack and head coach Tom Allen have been doing in Bloomington this year. The Hoosiers are 6-1 with their lone loss coming to playoff-bound Ohio State, 42-35. That success made him an attractive choice for South Alabama to lure him away to Mobile.

“I guess there is some truth to that as well,” Wommack said. “I think certainly what we do here and what we have done here played a big role in the opportunity that I got at South, and certainly the momentum that that carries for our program at South moving forward and what we are doing here right now is an exciting thing.”

Wommack’s juggling act will end Jan. 2 in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is set for 11:30 (CST) and the game can be seen on ABC.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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