By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze stopped short of declaring a former five-star recruit done for the season, but he’s not optimistic that Tee Shepard will be rejoining the Rebels this fall.
Shepard was a consensus four-star recruit coming out of Holmes Community College but was rated a five-star prospect by Scout.com when he eventually signed with Notre Dame out of high school.
He quickly established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the Ole Miss camp, but an injury to the tendon below the big toe on his left foot will likely keep him out for the season.
“We’re waiting on one more opinion, a guy who deals with this every day. Right now, I sure hate it, but it doesn’t look promising,” Freeze said.
Shepard could have the option of playing through the injury and delaying surgery, but that could cause scar tissue to form around the injury and make it unable to fully heal long-term.
A sophomore, Shepard has already used his redshirt season. There is the possibility of regaining a year of eligibility down the road, Freeze said.
Shepard’s injury was the big news as Ole Miss went through a walk-through practice Wednesday morning prior to a closed evening scrimmage in front of an SEC officiating crew.
Starting quarterback Bo Wallace was expected to get only a few snaps in the scrimmage with almost all the work going to redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade who are competing to be his primary back-up.
Freeze continues to work with various combinations along the offensive line, but it’s mostly about filling in the backups.
A guard in the spring, redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin has moved out to right tackle.
Freshman Rod Taylor was getting some reps at tackle but has moved back inside to guard. Junior college walk-on Craig Frigo has impressed offensive line coach Matt Luke and could see some time in a reserve role.
Luke says the competition between Ben Still and Robert Conyers at center is “still a pretty good battle.”
The absence of Shepherd doesn’t mean that junior Mike Hilton will play cornerback exclusively, Freeze said.
Hilton will continue to work also at Huskie, where he had been providing depth behind starter Tony Conner after a June injury to Chief Brown.
If Hilton ends up playing more at cornerback, the next man up behind Conner would be freshman A.J. Moore at this point.
“A.J.’s going to have to get ready. We’re high on him, but we won’t just throw him out there,” Freeze said. “We’d like to redshirt a lot of those guys, but we’ll have to get them ready.”
By Parrish Alford