Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner meets with the media following Wednesday's practice.
OXFORD, Miss. -- Doctors told Denzel Nkemdiche a return for the Alabama game was a reasonable goal.
Barring a setback late in the week, the sophomore linebacker is set to accomplish that.
Nkemdiche tore his meniscus during the season opener at Vanderbilt and had it surgically repaired a day later. With rehab on or ahead of schedule, the Rebels' preseason All-America selection should bolster the defense Saturday in Tuscaloosa against the top-ranked Tide.
"It feels great and day-by-day it's getting better," Nkemdiche said. "No swelling. Everything looks promising for the weekend. (I'm) 87, 80 to 87 percent. Since I ran last Friday I've been good. I felt all right that day and throughout the week I've been great, no major pain at all."
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the swelling in Nkemdiche's knee is minimal and he'll add him to the travel roster on Thursday if another night of sleep doesn't bring swelling or complication.
Junior Serderius Bryant filled in admirably for Nkemdiche during the absence, wins over Southeast Missouri and Texas, and the two shared first-team reps on Wednesday. It's possible Ole Miss gets both on the field at once.
I felt excited, I've been getting up with job and excitement to come to practice. I come here and tell Pat (Jernigan) so he can tell the coaches that there's no swelling and knee looks good. Things look that.
"I'm not limited at all," Nkemdiche said. I took reps with (Bryant). I'm preparing for a game. It's going to be a good one-two punch right now.
"I felt excited (this morning), I've been getting up with joy and excitement to come to practice. I come here and tell (trainer) Pat (Jernigan) so he can tell the coaches that there's no swelling and knee looks good."
KINCADE GETTING SECOND TEAM REPS: Devante Kincade has been getting the majority of the second-team quarterback repetitions this week, as Barry Brunetti continues to nurse a nagging shoulder injury.
Kincade, a dual-threat freshman from Dallas, has been on the travel roster for each game.
"He looks good, I'm excited about him," Freeze said about Kincade. "Barry had the shoulder issue and still doesn't feel 100 percent there. Like I told Devante this morning, we're one play away from having him play for us some. We have to get him ready, and we got him a lot of reps this week."
Brunetti will try to play Saturday. Freeze said he'll just have to see how Brunetti reacts to contact.
SECONDARY GETS MORE DEPTH: Charles Sawyer will play Saturday, giving Ole Miss more depth in the defensive backfield.
Sawyer will split boundary cornerback duties with Mike Hilton and could be used in nickel and dime packages, sets Freeze hopes he can see a lot of against Alabama.
"You can play a lot more kids in those situations," Freeze said. "Hopefully we get to play some of those. If you're doing that it's a decent sign. He's going to help us in the boundary. He's been in these battles before… We're bringing (freshman) Derrick Jones along, and he's looking really good, too."
HOOKS HAPPY WITH TASTE OF OFFENSE: Junior college transfer Lavon Hooks is working at tight end more this week, and Freeze said the Rebels have a package in place for the 6-foot-4, 302-pound defensive tackle.
"I had it on my resume from back in high school and I played a little basketball, so (Freeze) knew," Hooks said. "He knew I had some decent hands and can move pretty well with my feet."
Hooks said he already feels proficient on packages where he serves as a lead blocker. Hooks said the adjustment to offense has been "a huge learning curve, but I'm starting to get it."
Hooks said he's made up for the lost defensive reps in his spare time.
"My biggest problem right now is getting plays down completely," Hooks said. "I'm getting them, but it's all new. I'm just now learning. I haven't played offense in years. …If I'm able to excel at tight end, I'll take (my future) there. I just want to help my team win."
REBEL RAMBLINGS: Ole Miss has installed a package for converted tight end Lavon Hooks, who signed with the Rebels as a highly rated defensive end. Hooks will continue to split time between the two positions… Pierce Burton continues to favor his ankle but will play through the ailment… Freeze on today's practice: "Good day, focused, attentive, practiced hard and got after it. Maybe a little too physical at times. I liked it. I think we're as far as long this week preparing for Alabama that you could be."
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze meets with the media following Wednesday's practice inside the Manning Center.