Before he was known as the brother of former top recruit Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche was known among Rebels fans as the team’s leading tackler.

As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Nkemdiche led Ole Miss with 82 tackles, and entering 2013 he was expected to emerge as one of the team’s leaders on defense. Instead, he suffered a knee injury in the Rebels’ season opener against Vanderbilt and struggled through the rest of the season, registering just 35 tackles in 10 games.

His offseason did not go much better.

Following a February arrest on charges of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace Nkemdiche was subsequently suspended for spring practice and Ole Miss’ opening game in Atlanta against Boise State.

Nkemdiche accepted his punishment and sat out spring practice, waiting patiently to earn a second chance with the Rebels.

He was finally able to return to the team when the Rebels opened their training camp Monday, and will get his first chance to play in regular season game in Ole Miss’ second game of the season, which just happens to be against Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was asked about Nkemdiche’s return following Tuesday’s practice, and his comments indicated he is reintegrating nicely with his teammates.

“I thought his attitude and leadership out there in practice thus far is always positive,” Freeze said Tuesday according to “He’s kind of accepted what his punishment is and has gone through it very nicely.

“Any person in life that makes mistakes, which we all do, you’ve got some decisions to make after that in which you want course or trajectory you want to go in your life. And I think he’s made the correct ones thus far.”

Following his knee injury against Vandy, Nkemdiche missed two games in September against Southeast Missouri State and Texas – both Ole Miss victories. He missed another game in October, but the Rebels took care of Idaho 59-14 without him.

He is expected to return to the starting lineup when the Rebels travel to take on Vandy.