Freeze said decision on junior DT hasn't been made

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday he isn’t sure if junior defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will be available for the Sugar Bowl.

“I can’t say that today,” he said.

Nkemdiche fell from a wall - about 15 feet - outside the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead over the weekend and was taken to a local hospital by responders on the scene. He was later taken to the Atlanta city jail and booked on one count of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, a misdemeanor.

Officers and paramedics responded to the hotel around 11:20 p.m. Saturday, according to Atlanta police incident reports released Monday and reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. As written in the report, authorities believe he broke out the double-paned window of his fourth-floor room and got out onto the ledge, where he fell. Police found Nkemdiche laying on the concrete. He was conscious and stable.

“There’s no cut-and-dry answer to these deals until you kind of figure out what you’re dealing with,” Freeze said. “Kids make mistakes all the time, and you wish there was a pattern that said this is what you do when you do have one of these. We’ll gather all the facts. The first thing we’ll do is let our docs look at him and make sure he’s healthy and everything’s well. It’s too hard to tell.”

Freeze said he had a brief conversation with Nkemdiche Sunday night.

“I was in between homes (recruiting) last night when he finally called me. It was really short,” he said. “'Are you OK?' 'Yes, I'm OK. Coach, I'm sorry.' I said, 'Look, we'll talk about all the details after we get all the facts.' I just told him I'm glad you're OK. Sometimes when bad things happen, man, there's some silver linings if there are any. It's a blessing he wasn't on the 10th floor, you know? It could've been tragic. So that was the short conversation really. Tell me what did you hurt and how are you. That's where he got the stitches, and I think his ankle is swollen up. But he said he was fine and going to be fine. So I look forward to visiting with him when he gets back today.”

Nkemdiche is widely considered one of the top overall prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s also a former five-star prospect and No. 1 overall player in the country by Scout.com.

“I haven’t sat down and had a conversation with him,” Freeze said. “I owe that to him. If my understanding is correct, I think the charges are a misdemeanor. You’ve got to see the whole thing for what it is. I haven’t had time to do that yet.”

Nkemdiche’s off-the-field incident follows another involving his older brother and Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who was hospitalized for an undisclosed reason in November and has missed the last two games. He’s not expected to play in the Sugar Bowl.

“We enforce our tests, and we’ll continue to do it,” Freeze said. “I’m not a chemist or the people they use to decide exactly what those tests are good at picking up or not. I know the values we place here and the things that we do to try to get our kids to be the right type of men and do the right type of things. It’s an onslaught on society in general with a lot of things that are going on in it. We’ll continue to battle it and fight it as hard as we know how, and hopefully it takes with our young men and our program.”

A junior defensive tackle from Loganville, Ga., Nkemdiche has been the anchor for an Ole Miss defense that ranks top three in the SEC and top 22 nationally in tackles for loss, interceptions and takeaways. Nkemdiche, named a second team Associated Press All-American on Sunday, has three offensive touchdowns and has blocked a field goal. 

“The main concern when I first heard it was his health, of course,” Freeze said. “I think he just had stitches in an area in his back and some in his leg from just a short visit with him and his father on the phone. So I look forward to visiting with them. When you and I grew up, we made our mistakes and they weren't always on the front page of everything. Unfortunately today when kids do, it's well-known. It certainly was a poor decision to be in the environment he was in. Again, without knowing the details, it's hard to say exactly all the issues that are involved, but we'll visit today when he gets back and hopefully be able to get through it that's best for both of us.”


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