OXFORD, Miss. — Hugh Freeze is being aggressive in handing out discipline after a stint of offseason arrests marred his football program's image.
Most notably, All-SEC linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche will miss the team's Aug. 28 season-opener against Boise State as part of his punishment after an offseason arrest. It was one of four, all in separate incidents.
"We feel like we failed with them in some way," Freeze said. "I take it very personal. But ... we will hold their feet to the fire and we're not afraid to make a tough decision. No one is more important than this team. The team comes first."
Nkemdiche will not participate in spring practice, which began Tuesday, but Serdarius Bryant was in pads and took snaps with the first-team defense. Freeze has not ruled out a game suspension.
"(Bryant) is very aware of exactly what he has to do," Freeze said. "He's giving up his spring break to go do some mission work. That's part of it. He's got some community service, he's got some counseling.
"... I hope (Nkemdiche) can really learn from mistakes that have been made and get back to being who he can be. He's a good kid."
Nkemdiche was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace on Feb. 15. A day before that, Bryant was charged with disturbing the peace and public drunkenness.
The most serious charge of all involved Bobby Hill, on sexual battery. He is no longer a part of the team or a student at Ole Miss, Freeze said. He indicated the case went through the university's student affairs process.
Channing Ward, who pled guilty to DUI charges in his hometown of Aberdeen, has not had a punishment announced, and may not. Freeze said, "There is a lot more to that story. I would hope he would be cleared."
Hugh Kellenberger covers University of Mississippi athletics for the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.
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