By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Bobby Hill would have been a rising sophomore for this round of Ole Miss spring football practice.
Hill, though, is no longer part of the team as a result of his late January arrest on a sexual battery charge.
Off-season arrests were among the topics covered by Hugh Freeze, who is beginning his third season as Ole Miss coach.
In addition to Hill, linebackers Serderius Bryant and Denzel Nkemdiche remain suspended but at different levels.
Former Aberdeen star Channing Ward, who pleaded guilty to DUI, is not suspended. Wheels are still turning in that situation.
“I think there’s a lot more to that story. I would hope that he would be cleared from anything that has come out previously. We’re still going down the road with that,” Freeze said.
The Rebels were 8-5 last season and defeated Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl. They return six starters on offense, nine on defense.
Freeze talked about other things too, like the importance of maintaining continuity on his coaching staff, injuries and a handful of position changes.
But the winter rash of off-field events came up quickly in the question-and-answer period.
Hill also is no longer a student at Ole Miss.
“That whole matter was handled through student affairs, and that’s all I can tell you. We wish him the best wherever he decides to go,” Freeze said.
Last month Nkemdiche and Bryant, who shared the starts at outside linebacker in 2013, were both arrested on disturbing the peace charges but in separate incidents.
Nkemdiche was also charged with disorderly conduct, Bryant with public drunkenness.
Bryant will practice this spring, Nkemdiche will not. Nkemdiche will be suspended for at least the first game, a neutral-site bout with Boise State in Atlanta near his hometown of Loganville, Ga.
Bryant also could miss the first game if he does not make satisfactory progress on a list of demands by Freeze.
“Serderius has a lot of things he’s got to do to be in good standing before the first ballgame. It could involve being suspended also depending on how the rest of his stuff goes,” Freeze said. “Denzel, like Serderius … his list is a little longer to regain good standing with us.”
Ward will move from defensive end to tight end for the spring. Other position changes include sophomore running back Kailo Moore to cornerback and senior defensive lineman Carlton Martin to offensive line.
Defensive end C.J. Johnson is among several who will not work out early in spring because of injury.
“We’re really going to be protective of him this spring,” Freeze said.
Injuries are more serious for defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton (broken foot) and offensive lineman Christian Morris (Achilles), a UCLA transfer. They will miss all of spring.
Junior guard Aaron Morris is 23 weeks out from ACL surgery and will be held out of contact.
A complete injury list can be seen on the Ole Miss blog at Djournal.com.
Freeze says he takes the off-season incidents personally.
“We will hold their feet to the fire. We’re not afraid to make a tough decision. No one is more important than this team,” he said. “We have a lot of kids that are doing it right that never show up on lists. I’m really excited about them.”