Ole Miss loses Denzel Nkemdiche, Aaron Morris after Vandy game

Photo: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss opened the year and the SEC slate 1-0 with an unbelievable, come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt on Thursday night. However, the nationally-televised victory came at a cost.

Coach Hugh Freeze enters a heavily front-loaded schedule without two very important starters. According to CBS Sports, star middle linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche suffered a torn meniscus during the win. He underwent surgery on Saturday and faces a four- to six-week recovery period before he can return to the field.

Nkemdiche led the Rebels with 82 total tackles as a redshirt freshman.

“He’s the engine, the emotional catalyst of the defense,” Freeze said of Nkemdiche. “He’ll fight to get back as soon as he can.”

Freeze cannot be so optimistic, however, for the return of Aaron Morris. The team’s starter at guard, Morris suffered a torn ACL in Nashville. The 6-foot-5, 360-pounder (yes, 360) has a medical redshirt season to burn. He will thus return to action in 2014 with two years remaining.

As for replacements, look for senior Mike Marry to step up at linebacker, while Freeze may look to youth to replace Morris. The nation’s No. 1-rated offensive lineman for the 2013 class, Laremy Tunsil, may be called upon to step up.

It won’t be easy, however. After next week’s gimme against Southeast Missouri State, the Rebels take on Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU in five consecutive weeks.