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Switch could make Tate even bigger star
Moving to safety-linebacker position as new Terps coach brings changes
Maryland's Kenny Tate was an all-ACC selection a year ago.
He doesn't expect much to change in his senior season, even if the name of his position is different.
Tate and the Terrapins began spring practice Tuesday, with Tate among several players settling into adjusted roles under new coach Randy Edsall.
Tate ranked second on the team in tackles (100), tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (3.5) and interceptions (3) a season ago as a do-it-all safety. Nonetheless, he'll shift to a safety-linebacker hybrid position dubbed "Star" by Maryland's new coaching staff.
Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield, who himself switched from weak-side linebacker to middle linebacker, learned of the changes at the same time during the offseason.
"We were looking at it and said 'This could work, this is definitely a positive sight that we've seen,'" Tate said. "Now we have to go put it on the field."
Maryland is installing other changes in the next month under Edsall, who replaced the fired Ralph Friedgen in January, and new defensive coordinator Todd Bradford. Former linebacker David Mackall shifts to defensive end, and Darin Drakeford slides over from a reserve strong-side linebacker role to the weak side.
But the most obvious switch is Tate, who lined up closer to the line of scrimmage last season than a safety typically would.
It was a breakout season for Tate, who came to Maryland as a wide receiver and was shifted to defense before his first practice. Now he's on the move again, though the Terps don't see it as a major change.
"I know a lot of people looked at the position change as 'Oh, he's been moved to outside linebacker,' but it's more of a rover type position," Hartsfield said. "He's going to be in the box sometimes, but the majority of the time against the teams we're playing, he's going to be outside the box and he's going to be able to make plays all over the field."
Edsall said last week the changes he implemented were made to maximize the talent in Maryland's program and an attempt to get the most productive players on the field at once. The Terps return seven starters on defense, but few are more proven commodities than Tate.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder said he wasn't asked to gain any weight for his new spot. Instead, it appears the Terps will attempt to use him as a utility man who can both his speed to zip past offensive linemen and agility to drop into coverage as needed.
"He's a guy who's free to do what he wants," cornerback Cameron Chism said. "He can blitz, he can play the run at linebacker and he can cover a slot. He's just doing it all."
That works fine for Tate, who acknowledged he wasn't exactly a traditional safety a season ago. There were downs he functioned as a linebacker and others as a defensive end.
Regardless of where he lined up, he was a significant part of Maryland's 9-4 season - results the Terps hope to improve upon even if their best defensive player is making a slight adjustment this spring.
"I don't see it as a change at all," Tate said. "I just see it as a move to another position that's going to cause offenses to do something different."
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About the Author
Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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