Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has been receiving good news regarding defensive back Tony Conner, who has been recovering from a torn meniscus throughout the offseason.
“I’m real excited about the reports I’m getting from our medical staff on him,” Freeze said on the SEC teleconference Thursday. “He started running I think two weeks ago. There have been no signs of swelling or irritation after those workouts, so just really, really excited.”
Conner might be the most important player on the Rebels’ defense.
When Conner tore the meniscus in Ole Miss’ big win at Alabama last season, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze saw something different about his defense.
Conner injured the knee in the third quarter of that win. Alabama’s 20-point fourth quarter not only nearly got the Crimson Tide the comeback victory, but it also showed how different Ole Miss’ defense looked without Conner on the field.
The Batesville, Mississippi, native is so vital because of the position he plays in the Rebels’ 4-2-5 defense. Conner is a hybrid safety/linebacker, which Ole Miss calls the “Huskie,” and that role is crucial to making the Rebels’ landshark defense go from good to great.
In Ole Miss’ first two games of the season in 2015 with Conner on the field, the Rebels gave up 303 yards and 12 points per game. In the 10 games following Conner’s injury, Ole Miss allowed 390.7 yards and 23.3 points per game. Conner did play against Arkansas and LSU in November, but he was limited.
Against Alabama, Ole Miss gave up 323 yards and 17 points in three quarters with Conner on the field. When he left the game, the Crimson Tide scored 20 points and totaled 180 yards in one quarter.
“It was obvious last year after the Alabama win when we lost him and C.J. Johnson and Issac Gross that our defense was not the same for the remainder of the year,” Freeze said. “So to get him back, a healthy Tony Conner would make a huge, huge difference in our defense.”