OXFORD – Ole Miss junior linebacker DeMarquis Gates is eager to assume more of a leadership role on the defensive side of the ball, and he realizes more responsibility will come his way as the 2016 season draws closer.
Thus far in spring practices, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Dave Wommack has been moving Gates back and forth, playing him at stinger (outside linebacker) and mike (strong-side or middle inside linebacker). Wommack is pleased with Gates’ presence on defense as the Hampton, Georgia native is giving the Rebels some confidence to get after the quarterback as well as stop the run.
Gates played in all 13 games last season for Ole Miss, starting four of those. He led the Rebels with 76 tackles.
Wommack: ‘He’s turned into a really good football player’
“He’s by far the best linebacker at this point, but he’s the most experienced linebacker, and I’ve got him running both mike and stinger to cover ourselves at both ends,” Wommack said of the 6-foot-2 versatile linebacker. “Plus, he does play mike in the dime package, which we are not running at all this spring.
“So, he’s doing both of them, and he’s been steady and very consistent for us out there. He’s turned into a really good football player.”
Gates isn’t a stranger to playing multiple positions. In his freshman season, he started off at stinger but was later moved to mike. It was during his sophomore year when Gates began playing both positions for Wommack.
The dual-duty paid off, especially in the Rebels’ 38-17 home win against LSU on Nov. 21 when Gates recorded a career-high 14 tackles against the Tigers.
‘Patience and focus’ are keys to 2016
“It’s not really a comfort thing,” Gates said when he was asked at which position he is most comfortable. “I like playing in the boundary with C.J. Hampton over the top and Ken (Kendarius Webster) on my right side. I’m free to play anywhere. I like being able to run sideline to sideline. In our defense, both the mike and the stinger can do that.
“It doesn’t really matter to me where I’m playing.”
Gates expects 2016 to be a breakout year, especially considering everything he learned last year from watching Christian Russell, Denzel Nkemdiche, and C.J. Johnson—players who earned the respect of their teammates and made opposing offenses cringe.
Staying focused and patient has helped propel Gates into one of the frontline commanders of a Landshark defense that will rely heavily on his experience for guidance this coming season.
Following practice Tuesday, Gates was asked what lessons he learned from last year.
Junior linebacker DeMarquis Gates
Rebels sign two linebacker transfers
Ole Miss bolstered its linebacker position with the additions of Oregon State’s transfer senior Rommel Mageo and Iowa Western Community College sophomore Detric Bing-Dukes, who signed with the Rebels on the second and third of March.
Mageo is an experienced linebacker as he led the Beavers last season with 87 total tackles, adding two sacks, two interceptions, three passes defended, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Mageo arrives in Oxford with a career 157 tackles at the Division I FBS level.
Bing-Dukes, who redshirted in his first and only season at the University of Georgia in 2014, helped the Reivers to a 10-2 record last season, contributing 76 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Gates might be the leader at the linebacker position, but he has help coming in the fall.
“Both of them are coming from other colleges, so they’ve been in college play before, so I’m sure they won’t have any problems learning the defense and getting accustomed to how things work around here,” Gates said. “If they come in with a working mindset, it should be no problem.”
(Photo credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk)