Ole Miss might be facing Leonard Fournette without its leading tackler. Hugh Freeze said Wednesday evening that starting outside linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is questionable to play against LSU because of "a personal matter," according to Ben Garrett of Scout.com.
UPDATE: RebelGrove.com is reporting that Nkemdiche is currently in the ICU at Baptist Memorial Hospital for undisclosed reasons. He was found and taken to the hospital on Monday and was still there as of Wednesday night. He is reportedly conscious.
Denzel, if you're tuning in for the first time, is the older (but much smaller) brother of Robert Nkemdiche, the odds on favorite to the be the top pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.
This season has been the closest Denzel has been to recapturing the form that made him a breakout star as a freshman, when he posted 82 tackles and was named to the All-SEC team. He bounced from a season-ending leg injury a year ago in Baton Rouge to pace the 2015 squad with 53 tackles and has played a major role in stabilizing a linebacker corps that lost both of its starters from a year ago.
Ole Miss likely won't see a major dropoff in production if DeMarquis Gates has to step into the starting outside backer role. He's seen heavy playing time in a defense that likes to rotate its linebackers and actually sits just five tackles behind Denzel on the season. In fact, Gates has notched more tackles than Denzel in each of the past four games and started over him against Auburn.