Ole Miss senior DB Tony Conner ready for final matchup against No. 1 Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. – In week three of last season, Tony Conner suffered a meniscus tear in his knee against Alabama. This year, Conner is looking to put that all behind him.
According to the Batesville, Mississippi native, “last year was last year,” and it’s time to move on. “Every game, I just pray and hope that there won’t be any injuries for either team,” Conner said.
Ole Miss head athletic trainer Pat Jernigan is always in Conner’s ear about his repaired knee, ensuring he’s a full-go before the start of each game. Since the beginning of fall camp and the 2016 season, the senior defensive back has been receiving treatment on his knee.
In the Rebels’ season-opening loss against Florida State, Conner admitted his knee was stiff, and he wasn’t able to maneuver on the field like he had been able to do prior to the unfortunate injury. But as Conner gets more reps, he feels like his old self is reappearing.
Tony Conner, Ole Miss DB
Conner helps younger players prepare
Just like the Seminoles, No. 1 Alabama (2-0) has speedy wide receivers that loves to run slant routes through the middle. The young secondary of Ole Miss has to prepare to slow down sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley and redshirt junior wide out ArDarius Stewart, who have combined for 341 receiving yards and four scores on 20 receptions.
Ridley leads the Crimson Tide in receptions (11), while Stewart leads the team in receiving yards (203) and touchdown receptions (three).
Conner realizes his leadership and experience will have to go a long way for a Rebel secondary that is still trying to find its way after the loss of junior cornerback Ken Webster. After Saturday’s win over Wofford, a meeting was held with all of the young guys in the secondary on how to prepare for a highly-anticipated Southeastern Conference game.
“A lot of the younger guys were saying ‘it’s Alabama week,’” Conner said of what took place in the meeting. “We should prepare like every game is Alabama week, but for the young guys, we tell them to make sure to just play ball and be comfortable.”
Conner has great advice for the players who are new to big games such as the one Saturday against the top-ranked Tide.
Tony Conner on being mentally prepared
Conner takes his role as a leader very seriously, saying: “I’m going to go out here to practice and make sure everybody’s focusing on the little things this week.”
Another dual-threat, freshman quarterback
Just as they did with the Seminoles’ Francois, No. 17 Ole Miss (1-1) will also be facing another dual-threat quarterback in Alabama’s freshman signal caller Jalen Hurts, who has the ability to make plays outside of the pocket with his feet. In just two games, 6-foot-2, 209-pound Channelview, Texas native has completed 61.7 percent of his passes (29 for 47), while passing for 405 yards and four TD’s.
He has also run for two scores.
“From watching that first game, he’s a true freshman but he played tremendously well,” Conner said of Hurts. “We’ve got to go out and play our Landshark defense. Take nothing from him; he’s a great quarterback from what I’ve seen. We’ve just got to execute.”
Ole Miss and Alabama will square off at 2:30 pm (CT) Saturday, September 17 at Vaught-Hemingway in Oxford. The game will be televised by CBS.
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.