April 27, 2007
Gates enjoying move inside
After switching back and forth from guard to tackle last season, junior Michael Gates has now settled on a position, right guard. Gates entered the spring battling for position in the offensive line rotation and finished right behind senior J. D Hamilton. While Hamilton is now listed as the starter that battle will continue until fall camp.
Musical chairs was the name of the game along the offensive line starting the '06 season. Coach Grimes did not know who would play or where they would line up. The same offensive line that played inconsistent during the first half of the season finally settled down to stabilized the offense toward the end of the season.
"Another year of us playing together will only help us, all the ups and downs all that will help us. Toward the end of the season we came together as a unit and it showed. I think this offensive line could be pretty good, we showed some flashes last year and we are riding the momentum of hard work into '07 against LSU. I am looking forward to playing with guys and I think we are going to be good," Gates said.
Gates didn't mind using his athletic ability to help the team by playing both guard and tackle, has now been penciled in at guard where he feels at home.
"I feel a lot more confident at guard; at tackle you have a lot of those fast ends. It's a little easier for me, but I am in the process of trying to get stronger to handle those guys on the inside, because they are bigger and stronger and also you are working in less space. My athletic ability will help me in there because they are slower than me, I can use my quickness against them sometimes," Gates stated.
The offensive line was not the only position that the Bulldogs had trouble securing last year, as quarterbacks Mike Henig, Omarr Conner, and Tray Rutland took significant snaps from center last season. That insecurity behind center also had some effect on the offensive line, but regardless of the insecurity it made Gates and the offensive line focus.
"We really did not have a foundation, once the season progressed we realized that have to protect our quarterback and we could not have all those injuries. We switched up a couple of times because of injuries, but could not let people beat up on our quarterbacks at all. It is all mental with with us, we sat down and talked as a unit and came to the conclusion that we have to get better. We took in upon ourselves to do what we had to do to protect anybody who was under center," he explained.
While he has not been a guard as long as some of the others on the team, Gates has some impressed athletic ability. He actually came to Mississippi State after playing tight end during his prep career.
"At guard, I think my strength is my athletic ability. My speed, my quickness and my strength are what I use to do my job. I am usually quicker than the guys on the inside, so I have to use that as a strength of mine. I am not the strongest person, but I do what I got to do," he mentioned.
Gates has seen his fair share of troubles in Starkville, as he was involved in an off-campus altercation that almost forced Gates to transfer. Not wanting to start any bad habits, he has stuck it out with the Bulldogs and pleased with his decision.
"God and my parents are what keep me going. I talk to my parents about everything and they always tell me if it gets too hard, just fight through it. I don't want to start backing out of things because it gets too hard; I don't want to do that. Once you do it the first time, it will get easier and easier to quit. I don't want to start that trend in my life. They have always been with me and supported me in everything that I did. Coach Croom also, he has always encouraged me. He always tells me how good I can be if I keep working hard and stay mentally focused. Personally I want to see how far football can take me," he commented.
Coach Croom and Gates have formed a unique bond over his years on campus, as Coach Croom has taken on a father figure role. This father figure started when he first started to recruit Gates.
"When Coach Croom first recruited me, he told me if I came to State that when I leave in three or four years that I would become a man. Looking back on it, I can definitely say that he held up to his promise. I have mature so much since I came here. The things he puts us through, the off-season program, the conditioning, it's not about football, it is about life and he wants to make us better men," he said of his head coach.
While trying to enjoy his much needed break before turning it on during summer workouts, Gates plans on doing a couple of things to improve for '07.
"I will be spending my summer in the weight room; I will probably get with some of former high school teammates that play college football as well and do drills while I am home. I just had ankle surgery a couple of weeks ago so I will be rehabbing that and getting that back right," Gates said of upcoming break and over the summer.
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