OXFORD – The club is new to Qaadir Sheppard, but his in-house counsel is a big help.

Ole Miss linebacker Mohamed Sanogo played with a heavily-wrapped hand after an injury last year. Now Sheppard is getting used to the extra protection.

He calls it his “second weapon.”

It doesn’t matter how many weapons you have if you’re not on the field to use them, and hand surgery caused Sheppard to miss most of August camp while the Rebels acclimated to a change in defense, the 3-4 under new coordinator Mike MacIntyre.

Sheppard got enough done in the spring and continued to take “mental reps” this month, so there’s been little question that he would play a big role in the season opener at Memphis if available.

“I was out of shape the first practice, but I got back into shape by the second practice, the third practice. I feel good now,” said Sheppard, who a senior from The Bronx, New York, who led the team last season in tackles for loss with 10 and in quarterback pressures with eight.

He was a defensive end in a 4-3 then playing with his hand in the dirt.

He’s excited about his new role as a stand-up outside linebacker. In this change Sheppard will occasioanlly drop into pass coverage, but he says those calls are rare.

“Since we got that 3-4 now, us outside linebackers, my group, we’re coming all the time ... well most of the time,” he said.

Sheppard did a lot of treadmill work to try and maintain his conditioning when he couldn’t practice.

The injury occurred early in camp when he hit his hand on an offensive lineman’s head while executing a chop move.

Surgery required inserting a plate which remains in his hand.

“I knew it was fixable. I finished practice, so it wasn’t hurting that bad, but my finger was stuck like this,” he said, illustrating a painful-looking bend. “I knew something was wrong in there.”

Now the hand has healed enough that the wrap makes it right.

Leaning on Sanogo’s experience helps.

“He just said don’t wear a glove in there the first time. If you try to wear a glove it can be real tight. It was too hot. I just took the glove off, and now I have a little more space for my fingers.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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