Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is closely monitoring the health of Tony Conner this week.
Conner got back on the field against Arkansas, his first game since sustaining a torn MCL in Week 3 at Alabama.
As is often the case with great players, their absence affects more positions than their own. How much Conner can play next week against LSU — He went 30 snaps against Arkansas — affects how much Freeze and Dave Wommack can use senior Mike Hilton at cornerback.
How much Hilton figures into the plan at corner remains to be seen, but he figured into it a great deal in the second half against Arkansas.
Conner dance around the early departure question Tuesday evening, but on Wednesday Freeze seemed pretty certain that Conner will return for a senior year.
Freeze: “I don’t think that’s a consideration in Tony’s mind right now. Maybe the media talks about it. Tony and I have talked. I don’t think he’s even thinking in those terms. He’s thinking, ‘Let me get myself well and come have a great senior year.’”
Freeze also expects tight end Evan Engram to return.
At the beginning of the season Conner and Engram were guys who were going to have NFL decisions to make. Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell were foregone conclusions.
Conner had been a borderline first-round pick. Now the injury comes into play. The surgery he’ll have and the rehab to follow will take him out of winter and spring opportunities to perform for scouts.
Engram hasn’t had the season that he did last year mainly because he’s been used differently. Chances are he’ll be targeted more next year in an offense that won’t have Treadwell and Cody Core who have a combined 96 catches.