News broke minutes before Ole Miss kicked off against Memphis that Rebels starting outside linebacker DeMarquis Gates, the team leader in tackles, wouldn’t be suiting up on Saturday night. It was a declaration originally shrouded in intrigue—the reason for Gates’ absence was left unexplained by the Ole Miss media folks relaying the news to reporters.
Midway through the game, though, Ole Miss confirmed to Antonio Morales of The Clarion-Ledger that Gates was suspended for a violation of team standards. Hugh Freeze backed that up when asked about it in the aftermath of the Rebels 48-28 win, though he remained cryptic on the reasoning for the suspension.
I’m in a point in my life that, you know what, kids have to put the team first. I love our kids and I want to do things that help them long term. If it means sit one, I’ve done it this year and I’ll continue to do it. The ball’s in their court. They understand very clearly what our expectations are. I know kids make mistakes. I make them. I still make them. But, man, to be a great program, you have to have accountability to each other in some areas that are detrimental to the team.
When asked whether Gates’ suspension would extend beyond one game, Freeze said “that depends on him.”
Gates’ absence was glaring on a night in which Memphis racked up 474 yards of offense. Tayler Polk, a former walk-on who drew the start at outside linebacker, was a liability for most of the night and there wasn’t much in the way of depth behind him. In his postgame presser, Freeze called out the linebackers specifically as a group that needs to improve.
“I’d like to watch the film first, but we did make some mistakes there,” Freeze said. “I can’t say if it was Tayler or it was Terry [Caldwell] or it was Ray Ray [Smith] or Rommel [Mageo]. But we’re definitely making some mistakes that are giving up some plays that we’ve got to get fixed.”
The good news is that Ole Miss gets a bye week to figure things out. Let’s hope Freeze can forgive quickly, because the next time the Rebels hit the field, it’ll be in Fayetteville against an Arkansas team that has the running backs and tight ends to demolish poor linebacker play.