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Ole Miss’ Evan Engram and Issac Gross are questionable against Mississippi State

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Every Monday, we sort through the coach speak so you don’t have to. Here’s what you need to know from Hugh Freeze’s press conference.

Wofford v Mississippi Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Ole Miss’ ugly loss against Vanderbilt last weekend was a crushing blow to the psyche of a Rebel team that thought it had finally turned a nightmare 2016 season in the right direction. Shea Patterson’s heroics in College Station had seemingly charted an upward course that would continue into the offseason, but the 38-17 setback in Nashville shattered the perceived stability.

The disaster in Nashville also took a physical toll. Hugh Freeze’s Monday press conference included a long list of casualties, starting with star tight end Evan Engram and veteran defensive tackle Issac Gross, both of whom are questionable to play in the Egg Bowl this Saturday. Engram, who on Monday was criminally excluded from the John Mackey Award finalists despite leading the nation’s tight ends in receiving, limped off in the second half against Vandy and didn’t return. Prior to that, he’d been one of the lone bright spots on a receiving corps plagued by uncharacteristic drops, hauling in an absurd, 38-yard juggling touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“If any way possible Evan will go,” Freeze said on Monday. “I know that about him. He’s going to try his best to get prepared to go.”

Engram has had a historically productive bounce-back season, and it’d be a shame if he couldn’t finish up his Ole Miss career alongside his teammates. The same can be said of Gross, who fought back from last season’s career-threatening neck injury to become a key leader on a young defense.

Those two aren’t the only ones banged up. Here’s the rest of the casualty report.

  • Sophomore wideout DaMarkus Lodge and freshman running back D’Vaughn Pennamon have both been ruled out.
  • Freeze said offensive lineman Sean Rawlings and Robert Conyers, both of whom have been banged up for weeks, “will try their best to get ready to go.”
  • A.J. Brown is “sore” but Freeze said he thinks the freshman wideout “will be fine.”
  • Freeze said he thinks cornerback Tony Bridges, who didn’t see the field in Nashville, will play this weekend. “He’s day-to-day, but he seemed to be much better yesterday than he was the previous week.”
  • Freeze made an interesting revelation about Damore’ea Stringfellow, who’s received heavy criticism for dropping a sure touchdown and a key fourth-down pass against Vandy. It turns out he got his hand stepped on at practice last week, which gave him problems in the game. “He was very honest that, ‘Coach, I’ll play for you, but I’m struggling to catch the balls I normally can catch,’” Freeze said.
  • It’s not an injury, but the Rebs will also be without starting linebacker DeMarquis Gates for part of the game. Gates was tossed in the second half against Vandy for targeting, meaning he’ll have to sit out the first half against State.