Head coach Hugh Freeze, who placed a minimum four-week timetable on Conner’s potential return during his weekly press conference, said Wednesday the operation was a success.
“Docs felt really good about it,” he said. “He was in good spirits (Tuesday) night. Hopefully we can get him back quickly. I said earlier minimum of four weeks. That’s accurate.”
The 6-foot, 215-pound Conner is a two-time All-American and All-SEC selection. He’s widely considered a top-round NFL talent for the 2016 draft, having totaled 135 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 14.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 passes defended and 2.0 interceptions in his Ole Miss career.
Sophomore A.J. Moore and true freshman Zedrick Woods have rotated in at Conner’s hybrid safety/linebacker “husky” position in practices this week. The pair has combined for 18 total tackles on the year.
“I thought yesterday both (Woods) and A.J. had solid days,” Freeze said. “Gotta bring them along, for sure. We need them. We’re not going to change our defense. A.J.’s physical, and (Woods) is, too. He’s been playing a different position, so he’s got to learn some. Chief (Brown) knows it if we need him to play.”
Ole Miss received positive news on the injury front. Cornerback Tony Bridges and center/tackle Robert Conyers were both considered questionable to play against Vanderbilt. They’ve returned to practice and are “going to give it a go” on Saturday, leaving guard Justin Bell as the lone man left in the trainer’s room.
However, despite the return of a number of important faces, it’s been an up-and-down week for the Rebels.
“Yesterday was really good, today not so much,” Freeze said. “We kind of struggled through today a little bit. That was a bit disappointing. We’ll have to get back after them tomorrow and try to have a better day, because today wasn’t the best effort we could get.”
Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC), ranked No. 3 in the country, will host the Commodores (1-2, 0-1) Saturday at 6 p.m. CT in a game pitting two friends against each other in Freeze and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.
Freeze said he and Mason developed a friendship when Mason reached out as his team was toiling through a difficult 2014 season.
“Derek, he and I, I think, have a lot of the same core values,” he said. “We believe kind of the same way about what coaching is, what you should do with that platform and that purpose that you have in dealing with young men. When you’re like-minded with a guy like that in this business, you kind of form a bond pretty quick. I think we did.
“He was having a tough go last year. We talked a few times. I don’t think I really said anything, but just to have someone that would listen and be a friend during that time, I guess he appreciated it, for sure. He’s doing a heckuva job, and his kids play extremely hard for him. They’re in the right spots, their disciplined. He’s going to do a nice job there, he just needs some time.”
Freeze had no update on the playing status of junior left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
“I can’t comment on the process right now, but I sure hope to hear something soon,” he said.
As the Ole Miss Spirit reported Tuesday, a contingent consisting of Ole Miss counsel and administrators, Tunsil’s counsel and possibly SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey were expected to fly to Indianapolis today to push for a resolution.