OXFORD – The wave of injuries that Ole Miss escaped last year in many ways caught up with the Rebels in the off-season.
Some surgical work was planned – like Bo Wallace’s shoulder – some of it wasn’t, like the broken leg sustained by C.J. Johnson in spring drills.
Wallace’s shoulder is fine. Now it’s about regaining his arm strength, offensive coordinator Dan Werner said.
Johnson was limited in a light workout Friday and is expected to be ready for the Aug. 29 opener against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
The most important question mark right now appears to be senior cornerback Charles Sawyer.
The Rebels became thinner at corner on Thursday when it was announced that Nick Brassell had not made the grades to play.
Sawyer, the starter at the boundary corner, had surgery in the off-season on his rotator cuff and meniscus.
He’s the farthest away from being ready, Freeze says, but if Sawyer continues along his rehab with no setbacks he should be able to play against Vanderbilt.
“That’s the plan. That’s what I hope,” he said.
Sawyer is in the training room three times a day.
Freeze announced at SEC Media Days that he’d moved senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette from safety to corner.
Friday he said he’d moved junior college transfer wide receiver Quadarias Mireles there too and was pondering a move for freshman running back Kailo Moore.
“We have a lot of things floating around,” Freeze said. “After a week we’ll do some evaluating and see where we are.”
Senquez Golson, the starter opposite Sawyer at field corner, says he thinks Ole Miss will find quality starters and depth at the position.
“Bobby Hill has been impressive, and we’re still figuring out David (Kamara). The freshmen we have, they’re developing quickly,” he said.
The parents of Park Stevens, Dean and Gail Stevens, remain in touch with Ole Miss players.
Park Stevens, a sophomore junior college transfer, was killed in an automobile accident on July 3.
“We talk to his parents all the time. They send us a message once or twice a day,” senior offensive tackle Emmanuel McCray said.
Stevens was in his first year in the program but had already established close relationships with teammates.
“That was tough. Parks was a really good kid, really good kid. He was a guy that touches everybody’s soul, a guy that always had a smile on his face,” McCray said.
“I believe those people are here for a reason. You put life in perspective like that.”
Members of the most celebrated signing class in school history were not around for media day. That’s not a new policy regarding freshmen.
There were still plenty of questions about the group collectively. One theme that kept coming back in the answers is that the group is coachable.
“They have level heads,” McCray said, “just from what I saw in the summer, how they conditioned.”
The biggest name in the group is defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 recruit. He has the advantage of an older brother on campus.
Denzel Nkemdiche says he’s seen changes in Robert in the short time he’s been in Oxford.
“It’s impressed me how much he’s matured in two months. The strides in maturity, it’s been huge,” Denzel Nkemdiche said.