The linebacker position is one of concern for the Ole Miss defense in 2016

Junior Demarquis Gates headlines a position that will feature first-time starters in 2016.

Petre Thomas

Departing Linebackers

C.J. Johnson, Denzel Nkemdiche and Christian Russell.

Returning Linebackers

DeMarquis Gates, Terry Caldwell, Tayler Polk, Temario Strong, Shawn Curtis, Jack Raborn, John Patrick Sherling, Elliot Markuson, Ray Ray Smith, Luke Davis, and Willie Hibbler.

Class of 2016 Signees

Rommel Mageo, Detric Bing-Dukes, Donta Evans, and Tariqious Tisdale (did not receive a qualifying ACT score. Will play JUCO in 2016)

Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates

Outside Linebackers

DeMarquis Gates played middle linebacker in the spring, but with late additions Rommel Mageo and Detric Bing-Dukes in the mix, Gates will most likely move to the outside in the fall. Gates played 13 games at OLB last season, starting in four. With Denzel Nkemdiche out of the mix, Gates became the Rebels best linebacker in 2015, leading the team with 76 total tackles. There's a strong chance he will shuffle between outside and middle until Mageo fully picks up the Ole Miss playbook. Gates expressed confidence playing both linebacker positions in the spring. While Gates is unquestionably the best linebacker on the roster right now, he will have to be a leader in 2016. The Rebels' linebacking corps will miss the leadership of C.J. Johnson, so Gates will need to set the tone for the group in the fall. Senior Terry Caldwell took most of the snaps at outside linebacker in the spring but saw competition from senior Temario Strong and junior Ray Ray Smith. Caldwell has the edge right now, but Strong and Smith will be eyeing second string roles in the fall. Caldwell and Strong will most likely compete at MLB as well. Don't forget about Tayler Polk who has given the Landshark defense serviceable reps as a walk-on, and look for the development of former tight end Willie Hibbler, who could be an asset at linebacker down the road.

Middle Linebackers

Ole Miss lost C.J. Johnson and Christian Russell at the middle linebacker spot. While Caldwell may see some time in the middle, coaches seem to be excited about Oregon State grad transfer Rommel Mageo and JUCO prospect Detric Bing-Dukes. Mageo led the Beavers with 87 tackles in 2015. He also had two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Whether Mageo starts or not, will depend on how quickly he can adjust to and pick up Dave Wommack's defense. Bing-Dukes was a three-star middle linebacker who signed with Georgia in the 2014 recruiting cycle. After redshirting his freshman season, Bing-Dukes transferred to Iowa Western in 2015 where he totaled 76 total tackles, two and a half sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Bing-Dukes adds depth to the MLB spot and will compete with Mageo in the fall. If Mageo and Bing-Dukes take more time that anticipated adjusting, Gates will most likely split time between middle and outside. Caldwell and Strong will be in the mix here too. Shawn Curtis impressed coaches as a redshirt freshman, but will most likely start out on the defensive line in the fall.

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