An Ole Miss defense that played its best game of the season last weekend could potentially be getting its best two players back against Auburn. Hugh Freeze said on Wednesday that Robert Nkemdiche has been "cleared to go" and, surprisingly, Tony Conner has a chance to suit up on Saturday.
Monday marked the first time that Conner's been able to run since tearing his meniscus against Alabama on Sept. 19, but he's been more involved in practice than we expected this week -- Freeze estimated that Conner played 12 snaps in Tuesday's practice. Freeze called him "day-to-day" and said the staff could decide by Thursday whether he'll travel with the team to Auburn.
"We'll come up against a time where we have to decide," Freeze said, via Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit. "Not sure when that is yet. We'll talk about how practice went [Wednesday] and how we moved around and how he feels. You can only travel 70 [players]. It'll probably be sometime [Thursday]. He's got an issue that's going to have to be dealt with. It's just a matter of how much he can tolerate and how aggravated it gets when he does play. He's definitely close to trying it. We'll see from there. Whether it's this week or next week I don't know yet."
Even if Conner is able to play, you'd have to think that his role will be significantly curtailed. His knee still isn't completely healed (according to The Clarion-Ledger, Freeze said he'll need another surgery after the season's over) so expect the coaching staff to bring him along slowly and cautiously.
Freeze said Nkemdiche has practiced all week and is "ready to go ... as long as he doesn't have any more [concussion] symptoms." This is, of course, the same thing we heard last week, when Big Rob was cleared on Friday only to wake up Saturday with headaches and miss the A&M game. But this Saturday will mark two weeks since he banged his head running the ball against Memphis, so you have to like his chances of being healthy on game day.
Auburn, meanwhile, has its own beastly D-lineman poised for a return. Defensive end Carl Lawson, who bagged 3.5 tackles for loss against the Rebs in 2013 (he missed 2014 with a torn ACL), is back on the practice field for the first time since injuring his hip in the season opener against Louisville. There's been no decision made yet, but his return would be a major boost for an Auburn D that ranks second to last in the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss.