Rebels could be without three defensive starters for bowl game

Published 11:59 am Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ole Miss will have two defensive starters out for its bowl game. Head coach Hugh Freeze is hoping he doesn’t have a third.

Defensive end Fadol Brown and defensive back Tony Conner won’t play when the Rebels square off against Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans. Both will have surgery, Freeze said, on injuries that have lingered throughout the season.

Freeze said safety C.J. Hampton will try to give it a go, but the sophomore was held out of the final regular-season game against Mississippi State with a stinger. Ole Miss will start bowl practices next week, and Hampton will have to make some progress before returning to the field.

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“(Hampton) is still kind of day to day,” Freeze said. “His nerve has to respond to that stinger that he’s got properly before we allow him to hit, but I anticipate him being back.”

Though Freeze has said the team doesn’t know exactly when it occurred, Brown suffered a fracture in his foot late in the season but played sparingly against Arkansas and Mississippi State. He didn’t dress out for the LSU game.

Conner has also played limited snaps since returning against Arkansas from the torn meniscus he suffered against Alabama on Sept. 19. Freeze has repeatedly said Conner, who plays the Huskie position, would need another surgery once the season was over to clean up a more severe tear than that of C.J. Johnson, who suffered a similar injury against Florida on Oct. 3 but returned two games later.

Brown, who made eight starts, finished the season with 32 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. Conner played in just five games, recording 17 tackles. Seniors Channing Ward and John Youngblood have split the majority of the snaps in Brown’s place opposite fellow end Marquis Haynes the last three games while Mike Hilton will continue to fill in for Conner.

Nkemdiche ‘doing well’

Denzel Nkemdiche’s career is likely over, but Freeze said Sunday the senior linebacker is “doing well” since being admitted to a local hospital for undisclosed reasons the week of the LSU game.

Freeze and Nkemdiche’s parents, Beverly and Sunday Nkemdiche, said in a joint statement released that week that Denzel’s situation wasn’t life-threatening but didn’t disclose why he was hospitalized. Denzel hasn’t played since, and Freeze said he likely won’t play in the bowl game.