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 if 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.
Police say the 21-year-old Nkemdiche broke a hotel room window, walked about 15 feet, climbed over a wall and fell roughly 15 feet late Saturday night. He was taken to the hospital.
A police report said a double pane window in the room was busted and the room was in "complete disarray." The report also said there were "approximately 7 rolled marijuana cigarettes" in plain sight that police linked to Nkemdiche.
The police investigation is ongoing, the report stated.
When police arrived on Saturday night, Nkemdiche was lying on the concrete in front of the Hyatt Hotel where he was "conscious and breathing." There were several "associates" of Nkemdiche at the scene but "none of them claimed to know what transpired," according to the report.
"There's a blessing that he wasn't on the 10th floor," Freeze said. "It could have been tragic."
The talented Nkemdiche has more to worry about than just his status for the upcoming Sugar Bowl — he is considered a potential first-round NFL pick and the incident could affect his draft stock.
"He knows exactly what he has at stake," Freeze said. "I'm disappointed to hear he was in that situation, but I don't know all the facts as of yet."
Nkemdiche was the consensus top recruit in the country three years ago. He anchored the Rebels' defensive line this season and was selected to the AP All-America second team on Sunday.
Associated Press writer Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this story.