Ole Miss DB Tony Conner: Knee still ‘day to day’

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, September 14, 2016

It’s two games into the regular season and for Tony Conner, the return to normalcy is still a work in progress. The senior defensive back is playing his way through a meniscus injury he sustained last season that put the NFL and the rest of his collegiate career on hold.

“It’s still a day-to-day thing,” Conner said. “With the training staff and just going to treatment and everything.”

When he returned to practice at the start of fall camp, Conner said he felt he was “90 percent.” The first test was against Florida State, and Conner struggled as the game progressed, especially in the second half when it looked as if he was just a step or two slower than the Seminole receivers.

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“Coming out of that second half just sitting in the locker room, (the knee) stiffed up,” Conner said. “I could tell I wasn’t the way I was at first when I came out in the first half. … It’s kind of just going through each game, getting more reps. As it continues to come, (I’ll) just feel more and more comfortable.”

This Saturday will mark the anniversary of Conner’s injury as he suffered it during the Alabama game at Tuscaloosa nearly a year to the day. When the ball is kicked off, there will not be any lingering memories or thoughts on Conner’s mind.

“Last year was last year,” Conner said. “This year, I’m just looking for a totally different outcome. Every game I just pray that hopefully there’ll be no injuries for anybody.”

Tough to duplicate
The task for the Ole Miss defense this week is to stop No. 1 Alabama’s always deadly offense and this year’s quarterback, Jalen Hurts. It is the second freshman quarterback the Rebels will have seen in three weeks, and the similarities between Hurts and Florida State’s Deondre Francois have been echoed by Ole Miss players and coaches all week.

The only way for a team to have success is to be able to practice in as similar of conditions that they will face inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium come Saturday afternoon (2:30 p.m., CBS). The only issue is that Hurts’ skill and athleticism pose a problem.

“We can’t simulate (Hurts),” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “I think we had one of the coaches doing it (this week). You can’t simulate him. You simulate what they do, and you try and make sure (the defense) is aware of the rush lanes and containing him when you do rush.”

Expectation meets reality
Before the season began, Freeze acknowledged the tough schedule September posed. Three of the four games are against top-25 opponents in Florida State, Alabama and Georgia.

Half the month is over, and the Rebels have played then-No. 4 ranked Florida State (now ranked No. 2) and have Alabama coming up Saturday and No. 16 Georgia next weekend. The wear and tear physically and mentally is what Freeze felt it would be and then some.

“Has that ever happened in September before?” Freeze said of playing FSU and Alabama. “With us having already suffered some injuries that hurt us, this stretch is very critical. You sure hope you come out of this stretch without anymore than what we’ve already suffered. No question it can prepare you or it can take a toll on you.”

Injury update
Echoing what Freeze said during Monday’s press conference, defensive end Victor Evans is progressing toward playing on Saturday. He participated in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after passing all the concussion protocol tests over the weekend.

Freshman wideout DK Metcalf underwent successful surgery on his foot after breaking it during the Wofford game.