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November 8, 2012

Rebels' defense looks like walking wounded

OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss' injury totals, especially on defense, are considerable as the Rebels ready for Vanderbilt on Saturday.

C.J. Johnson and Trae Elston will play but have been limited throughout the week. Senquez Golson returned to practice on Wednesday after missing last week with concussion symptoms. Aaron Garbutt is out, and Wesley Pendleton likely won't be available against the Commodores.

The walking wounded has had a negative effect on practice.

"It's been hard, honestly it has," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "Not being able to put a full unit out there affects the personnel you have to run and would like to run. It's been bits and pieces here and there. Need guys back. Couple back Wednesday, so we need to get to the game with them healthy."

It's not a great week to miss practice repetitions, as Vanderbilt does a quality job mixing formations and trying to confuse the defense when it comes to assignments.

"We've seen a lot of formations, but they do a good job of attacking out of (unbalanced) formations, moving an offensive lineman over and putting a tight end in the space and things like that," Wommack said. "You've got to be able to prepare for it and narrow the defense a little bit."

Running back Zac Stacy is fifth in the Southeastern Conference at 84 yard per game. Not the fastest back, but Stacy quickly hits holes and has a second-level burst if teams don't corral him.

"He's tough, physical tough runner," Stacy said. "He's got quickness, not a burner but he sets up gaps so well and has balance. He's the No. 1 wildcat guy. They catch teams sleeping with gaps. He's impressive and is the guy we have to stop."

Speaking of the wildcat, that's a major challenge for Ole Miss' defense this week. The Rebels have faced much diversity with that package this season, but it'll come on Saturday. Wommack has seen a lot of offenses, and he's impressed with the Commodores' versatility.

"I think they do a good job of tempo, automatically run a play and then run right back to the line of scrimmage and run another play, and it won't necessarily be a conventional formation," Wommack said. "They're a big wildcat team. As far as wildcats and different formations and different people running the wildcat, they do more than any team I've ever seen."

Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke previews the Rebels' Saturday date with Vanderbilt after practice Thursday.

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