Former Lovejoy linebacker DeMarquis Gates committed to Ole Miss last March. He missed the entire 2013 season while recovering from knee surgery. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
HAMPTON — During this past season, DeMarquis Gates learned a lot about football.
The former Lovejoy High linebacker said the knowledge he gained will be helpful, but he would have traded that in for a chance to get on the field this fall.
After knee surgery during the offseason, Gates never got clearance from his doctor to resume playing this season for the Wildcats, who won their fourth straight region title and reached the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
Instead of helping the Wildcats with his physical play, Gates helped tutor the younger players about the game.
“I did a lot of coaching,” Gates said recently. “It was OK, but I wanted to play. I wanted to be out there helping my team.”
Although the Wildcats did well this season on defense, Gates’ presence still would have been welcomed. During the 2012 season when the Wildcats reached the Class AAAAAA finals, he had 90 tackles, including 75 solo hits. He also had 14 tackles for losses of 86 yards and four sacks in another injury-shorten season.
Gates also had one caused fumble and nine quarterback hurries.
“I’m proud of what they did without me, but I know I could have helped them out,” Gates said.
With the season over, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has now focused his attention on recruiting. The four-star prospect verbally committed to Ole Miss last March after receiving an official offer last January.
He plans to take an official visit to the SEC school on Jan. 24. Although he says he is fully committed to the Rebels, Gates said he will also take visits to Kentucky (Jan. 10), Indiana (Jan. 17) and Wake Forest (Jan. 31).
“I’m still good with my offer from Ole Miss,” he said. “They have stayed with me and in contact with me throughout the season. I missed playing this year, and had hoped to make it back for the playoffs, but that didn’t happen. I think I did enough the last three years to show that I can play major college football.”
Gates said that coaches are telling him that he will be given a chance to play next fall.
“Nothing is promised to you,” he said. “Nobody has said anything about a redshirt. They all say that I can come in and compete for playing time.”
He is hoping to add 10 pounds before next season. The outside linebacker is considered a Top 30 prospect by the majority of the recruiting services.
Ole Miss has been a hot spot for recruits the last two years under coach Hugh Freeze. This past season, the Rebels finished the regular season with a 7-5 overall record and played Georgia Tech in Monday’s Music City Bowl in Nashville.
The Rebels’ program became a hot recruiting spot when they landed last year’s top recruit in Robert Nkemdiche, a product of Grayson High in Gwinnett County.
Former Wildcat tight end A.J. Jackson signed with the Rebels last National Signing Day, but attended Northeast Community College for academic reasons. He is expected to resign with the Rebels program during the junior college signing period next December.
“Ole Miss is building something special, and I want to be a part of that,” Gates said. “They are trying to win a championship, and I want to be on that bandwagon.”