When we profiled Cameron Truss earlier in our Top 68 list, we established that Bowling Green's defensive backfield is perhaps its most experienced unit as the 2013 season approaches. We emphasize this point as a second player from that unit makes our countdown -- Jerry "BooBoo" Gates.
Gates has perhaps the best nickname in the Mid-American Conference, but his on-field play only amplifies the nickname's awesomeness. As he enters his final season with the Falcons, he has developed into one of the most feared defensive backs in the league and one of the best multifaceted players in BGSU history.
He is an Ohio native and graduated from Middletown High School in 2010. As a senior, he earned first-team All-Ohio honors from the Associated Press, as he amassed 2.5 sacks, six interceptions, 562 return yards, 169 receiving yards and 281 rushing yards. He also scored ten combined touchdowns with at least one each coming via rushing, receiving, returns and interceptions.
Gates made an immediate impact and was one of the team's bright spots in the two-win 2010 season. As a freshman, he played in all 12 games as rover and kick returner. He had 341 kick return yards and one interception. He returned that interception for a touchdown (versus Marshall) and also had a 75-yard touchdown on a kickoff return against Kent State.
During his sophomore season, Gates took on even more responsibility and produced better results. He earned second-team All-MAC honors as a kick returner by setting a BGSU record with a season total of 981 kickoff return yards. An amazing 233 of those came versus West Virginia. That total included a 77-yard return. He also scored on an 88-yard return against Toledo. As the team's starting rover, he had interceptions in wins over Morgan State and Buffalo. He also had a sack, a forced fumble, and 73 tackles, which ranked second on the team.
As a junior, he continued to make his presence felt in the return game while making an even bigger name for himself as a shutdown defensive back. Gates had 369 kickoff return yards for a 19.0 average, as well as an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against Rhode Island. As a safety, he was named first-team All-MAC after notching 47 tackles, a fumble and a fumble recovery, and two interceptions. Eight of those tackles and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown, came against Miami in a 37-12 romp.
Gates will look to improve upon some sensational career numbers as a senior. These include 1,731 career kickoff return yards and three return touchdowns (two kickoff, one punt), as well as five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 155 tackles. He will enter the season as a member of Phil Steele's preseason first-team All-MAC and as one of 44 players nationally on the Paul Hornung Watch List.
Bowling Green led the MAC in virtually every important defensive category during the 2012 season, and if they want to duplicate that feat, BooBoo Gates will have to maintain (or, preferably, improve upon) his level of play from previous seasons. If he has the type of "you can't throw over here" season that Phil Steele and many others expect, he may yet earn one of the very few accolades that has to date escaped him at BGSU -- that, of course, is MAC champion.