Denzel Nkemdiche remains hospitalized, will not play against LSU
Ole Miss senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche will not play Saturday–Senior Day–when the Rebels hit the field inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to take on No.15 LSU. He was admitted to the Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi on Monday and has been in ICU, RebelGrove.com’s Neal McCready reported Wednesday night.
The report provided no reason for the hospitalization.
While an Associated Press report on Thursday morning stated Nkemdiche was up and talking and would, in fact, be released from the hospital later in the day, a joint statement from the Nkemdiche family and Rebels’ head coach Hugh Freeze indicated Denzel Nkemdiche will remain hospitalized:
Denzel’s condition has improved as of today, and he will remain in the hospital. His wellbeing is all that matters right now, and we are making sure he receives the highest level of medical care. While his condition is not life-threatening, he will not play this weekend. We thank the Ole Miss family for their concern and encouragement, and we appreciate everyone respecting the family’s privacy during this time.
Joint statement from Beverly and Sunday Nkemdiche and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze
Nkemdiche, the team’s leading tackler this season with 53 total tackles, has made nine starts and appeared in all 10 games for the Rebels. Thus far in his senior season, Nkemdiche has produced 6.5 tackles for loss, a half sack and one-pass break-up.
Throughout his 40-game career, Nkemdiche has 198 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three interceptions.
Nkemdiche was a freshman All-American and All-SEC linebacker in 2012, but injuries forced the 5-foot-11, 208-pound outside linebacker to miss eight games over of the course of his sophomore and junior seasons. He battled back and became a full-time starter again in 2015.
With Nkemdiche out of the lineup, Ole Miss will turn to sophomore DeMarquis Gates to step in and play. Freeze said Tayler Polk, Ray Ray Smith and Temario Strong were among other options to fill the position.
Despite starting only once this season, Gates is currently third on the team with 48 tackles, including seven on Nov.7 against Arkansas. The Hampton, Georgia native has already seen a lot of playing time this season as the Rebels’ defensive scheme rotates its linebackers frequently.
Gates appeared in all 13 games as a freshman, playing on special teams and as a backup linebacker, and had 13 tackles and one forced fumble.
“He’s played solid,” Freeze said about Gates. “He’s still young and has made some mistakes, but he has played really solid for us in the number of snaps he’s gotten, which have continued from week to week. I think he’s ready for this challenge. We’ve worked really hard on getting him in the right spot and the right fits. We’re excited about him getting this opportunity.”
Feature image credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk