Lionel Gates part of potent running back duo

<b>ITV EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW</b> -- Lionel Gates was highly touted coming out of Jacksonville Parker High School and now appears ready to live up to his advance billing as part of a potent runningback duo in the Cardinal backfield. Following Tuesday afternoon's practice, Gates spoke with ITV.

Gates part of potent running back duo

Coming out of Jacksonville Parker High School three years ago, Lionel Gates was considered one of the top running back prospects in the state of Florida after rushing for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior and was named the 2000 Jacksonville Quarterback Club Player of the Year.

As a true freshman in 2001, Gates' red-shirt was pulled when T.J. Patterson went down with injury and carried 16 times for 68 yards and a touchdown against Memphis.  However, shortly after his red-shirt had been burned, Gates injured his shoulder and missed the rest of his true freshman season recuperating from the injury.

Last season, the junior running back split time with Patterson and Henry Miller and gained 209 yards on 72 carries, scoring one touchdown.

Lionel Gates (ITV)

This season, Gates' figures to be an important cog in the revamped Cardinal offense and entered fall camp number one on the depth chart at running back ahead of highly touted Florida State transfer Eric Shelton.  With a new lease on his football career, Gates continues to battle Shelton for the starting nod at tailback and at 6'0, 220 has the ability to run through and around the defense.

Following Tuesday afternoon's practice, ITV spoke with the talented running back from Florida.

Q: After a full spring and now seven practices during camp, how do you feel you've adjusted to the new offense?

Gates:  This new offense is a tremendous offense.  I am motivated and I have my confidence back.  With that I am able to play better, play faster and play harder.

Q:  Do you feel having a full back in this offense is beneficial for the main ball carrier?

Gates:  I am a tough guy but with that full back in front of me I feel that is an extra piece of armor.  I can run harder if I take a hit the full back can absorb it and I can go on.

Q:  Talk about your ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  Is that a strength to your game?

Gates:  I played a little bit of receiver when I was in high school.  And with the coach throwing the ball to the backs that will make us more versatile.  The defense will not be able to stop us, run or pass.

Q: Who's the leader for the running back position?

Gates:  A lot of guys look up to me because I have been here for a while, know the play book and I know the plays.  Eric and I have taken the leadership role getting guys going and making sure they are doing the right thing.

Q: How are the younger guys developing?

Gates:  Kolby Smith and Reggie Bradshaw are both doing a great job.  The fullbacks are doing a great job.  I think we all have gotten better since spring ball.

Q:  Have you bulked up any since the spring?

Gates:  Yeah, I have gained some weight but it's all muscle.

Lionel Gates and Eric Shelton have the look of developing into a potent duo this season.  Each player gives the defense a different look and opposing coordinators will have to devote much planning and preparation to stopping them this season.

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