Rebs ‘very relieved’ to have answer on Tunsil

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fahn Cooper got a text message Monday night from a former teammate at Bowling Green, and it didn’t take Ole Miss’ offensive lineman long to figure out what was going on.

“That’s how I found out,” Cooper said. “He was like, ‘Hey man, your boy Larry’s back.’ I was like, ‘Oh, Laremy?’ I had no idea. Nobody told me. It was funny.”

Soon the rest of the team also knew that the NCAA had announced its decision on star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, who received a seven-game suspension for extra impermissible benefits ranging from the use of loaner cars and an interest-free car loan to an airplane ticket.

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The suspension will be fully served after Saturday’s game against Memphis (11 a.m., ABC). Tunsil will play for the first time this season against Texas A&M on Oct. 24.

“Any time you have things that are going on in your program that you really have zero control over, it’s not the most comfortable feeling,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said following Tuesday’s practice. “That one seemed to go on for a long time, and you weren’t quite sure exactly why it was going on that length of time. We’re very relieved to get the answer and to be over, and we can move on and get him ready to play.”

Tunsil practiced with the second-team offense for a few periods Tuesday, Freeze said, before doing some conditioning and individual drills off to the side. Tunsil will immediately take over at left tackle next week with Cooper, who’s been filling in for Tunsil, moving back to right tackle.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Tunsil has been practicing even while being held out of games, which has coaches hopeful that the All-American will be able to return to live action without must rust.

“We do one-on-ones against the d-line, so you hope that can keep him sharp,” offensive line coach Matt Luke said. “But we won’t know until we get out here. He is a special player, so hopefully he can overcome some of that.”

But everybody is glad that the guessing game is over with a stretch of five straight Southeastern Conference games coming up to end the season.

“That’s something that you worry about how it impacts your season, how it impacts your future and all those different things,” Cooper said. “I know it’s a frustrating situation, and I’m just glad that it’s over for him. Now he can just focus on playing football, getting better and winning these games with us.”

Conner progressing slowly
Safety Tony Conner began rehab on his surgically repaired meniscus last week, but Freeze said it may be another week before it’s known exactly when Conner could return.

“It’s just moving a little slower probably than we’d hoped,” Freeze said.

Conner tore his meniscus against Alabama, an injury Freeze said would keep the junior out four to six weeks. The earliest he could return is next week against Texas A&M, but that quick of a recovery is looking unlikely.

“I’m not going to tell you he’s not (going to be back against A&M). I’m not going to tell you he is,” Freeze said. “But I think it would be a stretch.

“I’m just concerned that the temporary fix may not be good enough for him to perform.”