By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – The prized signee in the top 10 signing class for Ole Miss will miss at least the next three games, Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze said.
Freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, rated the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect last year, sustained a pulled hamstring in the first half of the Rebels’ 41-38 loss to Texas A&M.
The earliest possible return for Nkemdiche would be after the Nov. 2 open date; he will miss this week’s game against No. 6 LSU and the following games against Idaho and Arkansas.
Nkemdiche’s injury is at the top of a lengthy list that includes linebacker Serderius Bryant, cornerback Mike Hilton, safety Chief Brown, defensive tackle Issac Gross, backup quarterback Barry Brunetti and others.
“We’re a beat-up football team right now,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “You see other teams that go through this, and unfortunately we’ve joined the ranks with them.”
Bryant, the Rebels’ leading tackler, lost consciousness on the field. Tests revealed nothing more than a concussion, and Bryant has begun the series of tests and observation that follow a concussion. He has not been ruled out of play for LSU.
“He’s started our protocol, and we’ll see how he goes through the week,” Freeze said.
Nkemdiche’s injury further complicates things at defensive end where junior reserve Carlos Thompson remains out and C.J. Johnson – who defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has called his unit’s best player – is likely to miss his third-straight game.
Nkemdiche has started every game at either end or tackle and has 15 tackles, four tackles for loss and a couple of batted passes.
Freeze said he will move offensive lineman Ethan Hutson, a third-year sophomore from near New Orleans, to defensive end this week.
“We’re just trying to play with the guys we’ve got now,” sophomore safety Trae Elston said. “Hopefully some of the guys can come back, and we’ll improve our skills.”