We knew that cage fight in Tuscaloosa had taken a physical toll, but we were hoping not to get news like this. Hugh Freeze confirmed Monday that Ole Miss defensive back Tony Conner, who plenty of folks have pegged as a first-round NFL Draft pick, is undergoing surgery on Tuesday for a torn meniscus in his knee. He's expected to miss at least four weeks.
Four weeks means he'll miss games against Vandy, Florida, New Mexico State and Memphis, none of which has an offense in the top 75 of S&P+. Which means the Rebs hopefully won't miss him too much at the Husky position (the nickle back/safety/linebacker hybrid in Dave Wommack's 4-2-5 defense), particularly considering the depth that this secondary has. The top candidates to replace Conner are Chief Brown, C.J. Hampton and A.J. Moore. Another possibility could be to move Mike Hilton to the Husky and let Hampton take over at the strong safety (Rover) spot. What should be an easy game against Vandy this week will give Freeze a chance to experiment before heading to the Swamp in two weeks.
Where this really becomes troublesome is if Conner isn't ready to return in five weeks when the Rebs host Texas A&M's spread offense. It's not so much that he'll be needed in pass coverage against the Aggies as it is he'll be needed as a tackler near the line of scrimmage (A&M actually ranks higher in rushing than it does in passing). Kevin Sumlin runs an offense that uses every inch of the 53 1/3 yards width and his depth chart is loaded with players that can make you miss in space. Conner's lateral speed, instincts and tackling ability makes him the perfect weapon against that type of system.