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September 24, 2013
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with the media following Tuesday's practice.
OXFORD, Miss. -- Denzel Nkemdiche put on full pads and went through drills on Tuesday in hopes that he will be cleared to play Saturday when No. 21 Ole Miss meets top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Nkemdiche, who hasn't played since tearing his meniscus in the Rebels' win at Vanderbilt Aug. 30, had surgery on Sept. 1.
"He's close," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "I didn't see all of it. I stayed down here and watched a couple of series when he was in. You could tell he's got a little hitch when he tries to burst, but he's better than I really thought he would be."
Freeze said if he had to make a decision on the sophomore All-SEC linebacker Tuesday night, Nkemdiche would make Saturday's trip. However, the second-year Ole Miss coach said he wants to see how Nkemdiche's knee responds Wednesday morning.
"Will it blow up?" Freeze said. "If things progress like that, he'll make that trip. If our staff feels like he knows the plan and it's not swelling up or giving him a bunch of problems, I would suspect to see him on the field. Tomorrow morning will be a good test."
REBELS BRACING FOR 'BAMA'S LINE: Freeze said Tuesday the key for Ole Miss Saturday is staying out of third-and-long situations against Alabama's vaunted blitz packages.
"When you do that, you've got some quicker throws and hot throws," Freeze said. "They can't guard down on everything unless they're not going to play with a roof player and that's not really who (Nick Saban) is because he doesn't want to give up explosive plays. You get in third-and-plus-5, it's fair game and it's a lot of stuff."
FREEZE PLEASED WITH GUARD PLAY: Freeze said he's been pleased with the play of offensive guards Jared Duke, Justin Bell and Austin Golson in place of Aaron Morris, who tore his ACL at Vanderbilt.
"I think it's by committee and maybe them being fresher has helped balance our loss of Aaron," Freeze said. "I can't say I'm disappointed. Maybe they're not as good when we have to be in man-protection schemes as Aaron was, but we seem to be getting by with it right now and maybe a little better than getting by."
Patrick Junen will play more at guard Saturday now that he's finally completely over a toe injury suffered in the offseason.
"At the end of the year last year, he was arguably playing as good as anybody," Freeze said. "We're excited to have him back."
REBEL RAMBLINGS: Freeze said he watched film of Oregon during the bye week while the defensive staff watched film of TCU. Freeze intimated that Lavon Hooks continued to work at tight end Tuesday and could allow Ole Miss to expand its offensive packages going forward. Freeze said studying the Ducks allowed him to "pick up a couple of things we can add to us."
Ole Miss defensive end C.J. Johnson meets with the media Monday.
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