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November 6, 2008

Rebels still looking at Olive Branch safety

Olive Branch (HS), Miss. safety prospect Darren Bates joined several of his teammates on an unofficial visit to Ole Miss for the game with Auburn last weekend and came away impressed.

"The trip went really good," Bates said on Wednesday. "I really liked it down there and there's much to like about Ole Miss."

Bates teammates that visited with him were Aubrey Phillips, a Tennessee commitment, Courtney Easterwood and Keshun Cowan.

Bates, a two-star ranked, 6-foot-1, 195 pound prospect with 4.5 speed has yet to pick up an offer from the Rebels, but remains on the staff's radar as a player to watch.

"Ole Miss is calling every week or so," Bates said. "Coach (Mike) Markuson calls and checks to see how my season is going. Coaches from Ole Miss have been up for a couple of our games."

Bates said his high school coach is putting together a highlight tape of his season to season to send to college recruiters, something Bates feels will stimulate some interest.

"I think I've got a pretty high chance of Ole Miss offer," he said. "There's some other schools that are showing interest too. I'm also hearing from Mississippi State, Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, Louisiana Tech and Alabama."

But it's the Rebels that stand out to Bates.

"I'd probably commit right away if they offered," he said. "With having former teammates down there - Allen Walker and Markeith Summers - it would really be special if several of us could end up at Ole Miss. I think we could really do something special down there."

Bates said he took an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama game when the Crimson Tide took on Kentucky and was impressed with the coaches at Alabama. So impressed, that he'll catch the Tide again this week when he takes an unofficial to LSU as the Tigers host Alabama. He said teammates Easterwood and Cowan will trip with him to Baton Rouge.

Bates was recently called a top sleeper in Mississippi by Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barton Simons.

"He plays running back, wide receiver, safety and cornerback and he does it all at a high skill level and a high intensity level," Simmons wrote. "On the next level, Bates projects best as a safety and recently he showed off his abilities at that position during a close loss to national power Batesville (Miss.) South Panola. In that game, while making numerous plays on offense, Bates was all over the field on defense, tallying 17 tackles and setting the tone of the Olive Branch defense with big hits and relentless pursuit."

That's a performance that Bates hopes to take to the field this weekend when is 8-2 Olive Branch team tangles with Tupelo and one of the top prospects in the state in Chad Bumphis.

"I hear he (Bumphis) is fast, but that he doesn't like to get hit," Bates said. "That's fine because I plan on laying it to him this weekend."

Rivals.com evaluation of Bates:

PERFORMANCE: Bates was all over the field, keeping Olive Branch in the game against Batesville (Miss.) South Panola and putting in work on both offense and defense. There wasn't a better performer on the night for either team in a game South Panola won 21-13.

STRENGTHS: Bates has good size and plays with tremendous effort. He is anxious to make plays in run support and had the best tackle of the night when he stopped big back Nicholas Parker cold in the hole on the goal line. Bates is capable in pass coverage, particularly with his rangy frame. He diagnoses plays quickly and is a ballhawk. He also showed value on the offensive side of the ball on several occasions.

WEAKNESSES: The only weakness that Bates showed was that he may lack elite speed. Other than that, his only weakness is a non-existent offer list. - BARTON SIMMONS



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