Out of Maryland’s handful of position changes under new coach Randy Edsall, none stand out as much as Kenny Tate’s move to linebacker.
Well, more specifically, to “STAR” – a hybrid of linebacker and safety that will function as an outside linebacker. Among Tate’s backups are converted defensive back Mario Rowson and Desmond Kearse.
Tate had 100 tackles (8.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks and three interceptions last year and was a first-team all-ACC pick.
It does beg one question: Why is a guy who was one of the conference’s most disruptive defensive player switching spots.
“When you watch the tape of Kenny from a year ago, 80 percent and almost 90 percent of the time he was playing down,” Edsall said. “He wasn’t playing back in the deep half. He wasn’t playing quarters, he wasn’t playing a post player. When you take a look at Kenny and you take a look at his abilities, he’s better suited to be a linebacker and he’s better suited to be a linebacker for his future after he’s done playing here.”
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Tate likely has the size and strength to make the change. More interesting is that it’s the second time Tate has switched positions in his career.
The DeMatha product was recruited as a wide receiver, then moved to safety before his first practice in 2008. As for how he handled yet another change?
“Kenny was great,” Edsall said. “When we sat down and we made these moves and I told Kenny to come in and see me and put my arm around him and told him I had some things to tell him in terms of what we’re going to do. He said ‘That’s good, because you can tell the assistant defensive coordinator what exactly those moves are and what we’re going to be doing.’ I took him into the defensive room and I showed him the depth chart in terms of where we’re going to play him, and he was ecstatic. He said ‘I really like this.’”
Edsall said making Maryland’s defense work optimally was a major reason behind his decision. But he also pointed to his experience in the 1990s with the Jacksonville Jaguars as reason to believe Tate will be better-suited in the long term with the switch.
“It puts him in the best position to make plays based on his ability, and that’s what he wanted to do,” Edsall said. “Kenny’s a team guy, and I think Kenny knows his best opportunities are playing at that position.”