By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – Never has not playing football been greeted with so much enthusiasm by Hugh Freeze.
The Ole Miss coach says he doesn’t ordinarily embrace an open date, but given the physical state of the Rebels he’s eager to take off a Saturday.
The Rebels left a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M with a lengthy injury list but were able to follow that with an emotional – and short-handed – 27-24 win over then-No. 6 LSU.
After a 59-14 win over Idaho, the Rebels are 5-3 and will next play against Arkansas on Nov. 9, an 11:21 kickoff at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The top priorities for Ole Miss players this week will be rest and healing.
“I do think we can get quite a few of those guys back that are not year-ending type deals,” Freeze said.
There have been year-ending type deals from impact players: offensive lineman Aaron Morris, who tore an ACL in the Vanderbilt game, and DE CJ Johnson, who tried to rehab an ankle but couldn’t and was ruled out for the season heading into the LSU game.
Freeze said he’s confident starting cornerback Mike Hilton will be ready for the Arkansas game, and so should be linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who was held out against Idaho.
He’s “hopeful” defensive end Robert Nkemdiche will be back as well but didn’t know enough about the younger Nkemdiche’s status to offer a more definitive statement on Monday. He offered the same evaluation for starting running back Jeff Scott – hopeful but wait a week and see.
Robert Nkemdiche’s stretched hamstring against Texas A&M subtracted the second starting end from the Rebels’ lineup.
Last year’s top national recruit, Nkemdiche has appeared in six games with five starts at end, one at tackle.
He’s got 15 tackles, four tackles for loss, a couple of pass break-ups and a pressure.
“I feel more excited about this open week than I remember feeling about open weeks in the past,” Freeze said. “I think it comes at a great time for us. We’ve got a little momentum, a little confidence, but an unhealthy football team.”