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Johnson set to return against Texas A&M

No. 24 Ole Miss will get one of its missing pieces back this weekend.

Senior middle linebacker C.J. Johnson took to Twitter on Tuesday to update his progress after a meniscus injury kept him out of the last two games, tweeting, “Awesome Saturday is looking good,” in response to a question from a fan about his knee.

Head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed Wednesday that Johnson will be back for Saturday’s game against No. 15 Texas A&M at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (6 p.m., ESPN). Johnson was originally scheduled to be out four to six weeks after suffering the injury Oct. 3 against Florida, but he’s made a quick recovery and is in line to get some snaps against the Aggies.

“I don’t know how many reps that would be. I hope it’s a bunch,” Freeze said. “And I don’t think it would be because of his knee. He just hasn’t been able to condition and do game-type conditioning. He’s looked good both days in practice though, and we’ve managed his reps a bit. But it’s good to have him back running around.”

Johnson is one of two defensive starters who have missed the last handful of games, joining safety Tony Conner, who’s also out with a knee injury. Junior college transfer Terry Caldwell has started the last two games in Johnson’s absence.

Conner ‘feels better’
Conner has progressed slower in his recovery after tearing the meniscus in his right knee against Alabama on Sept. 19. Freeze said Conner has “looked better this week,” but the junior All-SEC performer won’t be ready to play Saturday.

Freeze said the plan is for Conner to start running next week, but the coach was non-committal when asked if Conner would be back this season.

“I don’t know. I really try not to speculate on those things,” Freeze said. “I talked to him yesterday. He definitely feels better. I think they’re going to try to go back to running him next week, and we’ll see the reaction of the knee.”

Safety Trae Elston (concussion) has been cleared to play Saturday, Freeze said. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (concussion) will go through another round of tests this morning before being cleared.

All-American matchup
Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil will be tested immediately by one of the nation’s best defenders.

Fully reinstated following his seven-game suspension from the NCAA for extra impermissible benefits, Tunsil will go up against A&M defensive end Myles Garrett most of the time Saturday. Garrett leads the Southeastern Conference with 8.5 sacks and ranks second with 11.5 tackles for loss.

“You’re talking about two of the best players in the nation,” Freeze said. “They’ll test each other. Both will win some battles. When you play against two caliber guys like that, that’ll be a good match.”