The Washington Times - August 10, 2012, 02:53PM

Kenny Tate is back after missing the last eight games of his original senior year with a knee injury.

Alex Twine, who played far more than anyone would have guessed a year ago as a true freshman, is also back for Maryland.

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The Terrapins switched to a 3-4 defense in the offseason in an attempt to take advantage of their plethora of linebackers.

But there are Tate and Twine, working at the same strong-side outside linebacker position. And Tate looked like the Tate of old at times during Friday’s practice, Maryland’s first in full pads this camp.

“Right now, they’re really competing,” coach Randy Edsall  said. “Kenny’s come back and we’ve seen what he’s doing. It’s one of things where we’ll sit down as a coaching staff and say OK, who’s our best guys. I’m not saying we’re going to make a position change, but if we have a guy we feel like should be on the field playing, then we have to try to find a way to get him on the field if we can. … We all feel comfortable with Alex on the field and what he can get done.”

A position tweak was an interesting thing to briefly mention. It seems reasonably safe to conclude the Terps’ top four linebackers include Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford; the group of three seniors comprised Maryland’s opening night lineup at linebacker last year.

But if Twine, who impressed at times when pressed into action last year, is the fourth-best linebacker, could he find his way to an inside spot? Or, more to the point, how interchangeable are the linebacker spots in the 3-4?

(Quick primer: Maryland’s verbiage includes the Sam, the strong-side outside backer; the Will, the weak-side outside linebacker; the Mike, the strong-side inside linebacker; and the Mo, the weak-side inside linebacker).

“You can do it,” Edsall said. “There’s a little bit of learning. The two inside guys are pretty much similar. The outside guys, it’s probably easier to go from the Sam to the Will than say the Will to the Sam. There’s a lot more involved doing that. The Sam is probably the toughest of them all with all the different adjustments and things that position has to do. The Mike and the Mo, those two can be pretty interchangeable. The Will [to the Sam], going from that one to the other.”

Interesting.

Twine’s at the Sam spot at the moment. Maybe a position change isn’t looming for him. But if it is seriously discussed at some stage, here’s guessing his ability to handle a switch won’t be a major concern for Maryland’s staff.

Patrick Stevens