One of 11

As a true freshman last season, Outside Linebacker DeMarquis Gates did not understand the team concept of defense. Consequently, it looked as if he was playing for himself and not the whole unit. This year, he's got it figured out.

"When I was in high school, with all due respect to my teammates, it was all me," Gates explained. "I had to make the play if it was going to be made. It took me almost all of last year to get out of that mode and to trust my teammates.

"I was used to having to do it all and just stayed in that frame of mind for a good part of last year. I was jumping out of my gaps and trying to make plays for my teammates. Some people thought I was being selfish, but I wasn't. I just didn't know any better."

Now, 12 months later, as the understudy/backup for veteran Denzel Nkemdiche, Gates is the epitome of a team player in regard to trusting the guy next to him.

"I now only focus on what I have to do. I now realize everyone at this level is as good as I am and I don't have to do it all. I now realize I am one of 11," he continued. "I just have to make my play and trust that everyone else is going to make theirs and do their jobs.

"I trust them all now and it's made me a better player and a better teammate. It also helps me to be playing behind Denzel. He knows the position like the back of his hand. He knows everything. He gives me his feedback all the time and it's always right."

Gates not only grew in his knowledge, he grew more into manhood, putting on quality weight since last season.

"I was around 215-216 last year. I am 232 now and I feel good about it," Gates stated. "I have kept my speed and I am a lot stronger. I gained 16-17 pounds of good weight. I was 225 at the start of August and have put on eight good pounds in August. I feel great."

Last year, then LB Coach Tom Allen had DeMarquis learn middle linebacker and outside linebacker. This year, he's exclusively on the outside.

"I already knew the position and where my help was coming from. I can play both because of the weight I have put on and my training from last year and I have no preference, but I feel good at OLB," Gates explained.

In the opener against UT-Martin, DeMarquis felt like the defense could have tackled better, but everything else was OK.

"We didn't tackle well - we missed 16 tackles in that game, way too many, but I think as we get more into the season, we will do better," he continued. "We didn't tackle to teh ground much during August, but that is no excuse. We have been tackling all our lives and we have to do better.

"We know how to do this - just get to the ball and make the play. Simple."

Look for more of DeMarquis Gates as the season progresses. He will sub for Denzel liberally and is his likely heir apparent after this season at OLB.

His effectiveness will only increase now that he understands the concept of "one of 11."


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