Robert Nkemdiche’s status for the Sugar Bowl is uncertain after the Mississippi defensive lineman was charged with possession of marijuana following a 15-foot fall at an Atlanta hotel over the weekend that sent him to the hospital.
Coach Hugh Freeze said Monday he hasn’t decided whether Nkemdiche will play against Oklahoma State on Jan. 1 — assuming he is physically able to take the field. Freeze said he had a brief phone conversation with Nkemdiche, who apologized, and the player’s dad.
Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-4, 296-pound junior, has stitches in his back and leg and a swollen ankle, according to the coach. Freeze added he needs to gather more facts and talk more with Nkemdiche before making a decision about any punishment.
“Any time these things happen with young men there’s no cut and dried answer, particularly when you don’t know all the facts and issues,” Freeze said. “I haven’t even had a chance to visit with him [in person]. I certainly owe him that before we talk about details. My main concern when I first heard it was his health, of course.”
Nkemdiche was expected back on the Ole Miss campus later Monday.
Freeze addressed the media before the team’s first practice for the Sugar Bowl. But instead of talking about the Cowboys or playing in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1970, Freeze spent most of his time discussing Nkemdiche’s injuries.
Clemson’s Lawson to enter draft
Clemson junior Shaq Lawson, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s defensive player of the year, is giving up his final season with the Tigers to enter the NFL Draft.
The defensive end says he made the choice before Clemson’s regular-season finale with South Carolina and wanted to make it known so people would stop asking him about it.
Lawson leads the top-ranked Tigers with 10 sacks and 22 1/2 tackles for loss.
The Tigers (13-0) returned to practice Monday to prepare for No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Lawson has been a disruptive force for Clemson in a season in which the team lost eight starters on defense, including first-round NFL picks in defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker Stephone Anthony.
Tennessee has given Butch Jones a $500,000 raise that will increase his annual pay to $4.1 million. The school announced the raise Monday. Jones didn’t receive an extension, as his contract continues to run through the 2020 season. … Louisiana-Monroe has hired Matt Viator as the Warhawks’ next head football coach, luring him away from McNeese State, where he never had a losing season during the past decade. … Will Muschamp is keeping Shawn Elliott on his staff, naming the former South Carolina interim coach to led the offensive line. The school announced Elliott’s retention Monday, along with the hiring of strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman. … Rutgers Coach Chris Ash has named Drew Mehringer as his offensive coordinator. Mehringer, who will also coach the quarterbacks, was the wide receivers coach at Houston this past season. … No. 1 Clemson landed a defensive lineman considered by some the country’s No. 2 recruit in Wake Forest High star Dexter Lawrence.