Nearing a Return

Denzel Nkemdiche, who has missed the last two games due to injury, received positive news Wednesday morning that could help get him back on the field.

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Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said on the SEC teleconference that Nkemdiche, a redshirt sophomore, was given a good report on his injured knee, and Freeze feels good about the prospect of Nkemdiche suiting up against top-ranked Alabama Saturday at 5:30 p.m. CT.

Nkemdiche has been a full practice participant this week.

"We were pleased to find out the knee didn't have hardly any swelling," Freeze said. "We feel good about it, as of today."

Nkemdiche suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Rebels' season-opening, 39-35 win at Vanderbilt. With a noticeable limp, he finished the game. He totaled five tackles, including two solos. The initial diagnosis was 4-6 weeks.

"I will not play him if I don't feel he's ready," Freeze said on Monday. "It's a long season. We'll need all capable bodies to make it through this season. If he's ready to go, certainly we'll play him. It will probably be Friday before we know for sure."

Denzel Nkemdiche
Bruce Newman

Nkemdiche led the team with 82 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, last season. He was named All-SEC second team by the Associated Press, among others, and entered the year as a consensus All-SEC first team selection.

"You know how he is. He's so amped up right now," quarterback Bo Wallace said of Nkemdiche. "I'm excited for him, I hope he gets to play, but I know he's not going to push it or anything like that. He's going to be smart about it."

"I know he wants to play. He's anxious," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "We had that talk with him, ‘If you aren't ready, let's wait.' But I think he wants to play really bad."

Ole Miss has managed without Nkemdiche, thanks in large part to the contributions of junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, who leads the team with 26 total tackles despite being suspended for Vanderbilt due to a violation of team rules.

Bryant is also tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with four, and he is credited with one of the Rebels' four sacks on the year.

"I think Serderius speaks for himself," Wommack said. "We knew all along, throughout fall camp, that was one of our strongest two-deep positions we have with those two guys there. We actually created some defensive packages so they could both be on the field together at the same time because Serderius has come so far. Having them both back will be huge for us."

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