Ole Miss defensive players and coaches have often referenced last year’s Texas game as a turning point in the season.
Humiliated at home, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack says that was a time that players really began to trust one another and the coaching staff.
If so, the Alabama game was the first time the Rebels began to show the proof of that belief as they came out and played physical with the Tide.
“We out-physicaled them a little bit. I expect them to remember that game, and they’re going to come out and give us their best,” Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt said.
Prewitt called this week’s game a “throwdown.” He was a big part of that physical play last year, totaling 13 tackles, several of them of the bone-jarring nature with which he struck Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews earlier this season.
The defensive story line for Ole Miss this week has been the recovery status of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who sustained a sprained MCL in that Vanderbilt game.
Originally next week’s trip to Auburn was targeted as Nkemdiche’s return, but his rehab has been ahead of schedule. It’s not been announced that he will play at Alabama. The measuring stick, though, has been swelling on the knee. There’s been little or none, and it’s quite possible that Nkemdiche will play.
Remember, though, Vince Sanders, who had been out with a broken collarbone since the second day of practice, returned to practice the week of the Texas game but did not play against the Longhorns. It’s more important that Nkemdiche be healed and ready to go upon his return than to be rushed back. Earlier this week Hugh Freeze told us he wouldn’t play Nkemdiche unless he’s ready to go.
If he does play we’ll have to see how the knee affects his quickness and explosiveness in his first game back.
No doubt the older Nkemdiche, second-team All-SEC a year ago, can help. He had a big game against the Tide last year with 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.