OXFORD – A week off helped Ole Miss prepare extra for Alabama but also helped the Rebels heal.
Offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray (back) and Pierce Burton (ankle) were both held out of contact last week, but both are back at practice now.
“They looked good Sunday,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said on Monday.
The Rebels will also get wide receiver Vincent Sanders back this week. Sanders was the team’s second-leading receiver last year in yards-per-catch and touchdowns. He sustained a broken collarbone on the second day of practice in August camp and has yet to play this season.
Sanders actually returned to practice the week of Texas preparation but was held out of the game.
It’s also possible that linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche could play at Alabama. A second-team All-SEC choice as a redshirt freshman last year, Nkemdiche sustained a sprained MCL (knee) in the season opener against Vanderbilt.
When the injury first happened, next week’s game at Auburn was targeted for Nkemdiche’s return.
Freeze says Nkemdiche is eager to get back on the field.
“I’m not going to play him just because he says he wants to play,” Freeze said. “I won’t play him unless he’s ready.”
It could be much later in the week, possibly Friday, before Freeze has a clearer idea of Nkemdiche’s availability.
‘We have to make plays’
Wide receiver Donte Moncrief appreciated the vote of confidence from quarterback Bo Wallace who told media gathered at Monday’s press conference that the Rebels’ wide receivers’ were better than Texas A&M’s.
“He throws to us every day. He knows what we can do. We have to continue to make plays for Bo and pick the offense up,” Moncrief said.
Ole Miss is tied for eighth in the SEC in pass offense with 240 yards a game. A&M is first at 391 yards a game, but the Rebels are more balanced, second in the league in rushing offense – 250 yards a game – compared to ninth for Texas A&M.
Success against run
When Ole Miss lost 33-14 at Alabama last year the Rebels were just two games removed from giving up 350 rushing yards in a 66-31 loss to Texas.
The Rebels showed improvement, holding Alabama to 125 total rushing yards, less than 100 for star back Eddie Lacy and less than 4 yards a carry for Lacy’s backup, then-freshman T.J. Yeldon.
“We were one of the few teams last year that I felt like stopped the run. We were one of the few that held their running backs to under 100 yards, I know Lacy anyway,” Freeze said.
Yeldon is Alabama’s primary running back this season and is currently seventh in the SEC at 91 yards a game.