Maryland linebacker Kenny Tate will undergo surgery this week and miss the rest of the season, adding another element of misery to the Terrapins’ struggles.
Tate will seek a hardship waiver from the NCAA to return next season, coach Randy Edsall said. The senior has not redshirted since arriving at Maryland.
Tate has not played in Maryland’s last three games, all losses to conference opponents as the Terrapins (2-5, 1-3 ACC) fell out of contention for the Atlantic Division title.
“It was very obvious to me a couple weeks ago after seeing something I saw on film and watched in practice that Kenny wasn’t able to go and perform the way he should perform,” Edsall said Sunday. “I was not going to put the young man on the field just to win a game.”
The school said Tate’s recovery time from surgery will be between six and nine months. Edsall declined to specify Tate’s injury, though Tate’s right leg was wrapped during warmups Oct. 8 at Georgia Tech. Tate wore a knee brace while warming up Oct. 15 against Clemson. Tate did not dress but did travel for Saturday’s 41-16 loss at Florida State.
Edsall said the injury “was just something he’s had” and acknowledged Tate took a hit in a game earlier this season. Maryland listed Tate as doubtful on its injury report the last three games. He had 35 tackles (1.5 for loss) this season.
NCAA guidelines stipulate a player is eligible for a hardship waiver if he plays in less than 30 percent of his team’s contests and participates in games only in the first half of the season. While 30 percent of the Terps’ 12-game schedule is 3.6 games, the NCAA rounds that number up to four —- precisely the number of contests in which Tate appeared.
“I recently had a chance to sit down with coach Edsall, my family and the medical staff to discuss my options,” Tate said in a statement released by the school. “This is the best course of action to get healthy and get back on the field next season.”
Redshirt freshman Mario Rowson will likely continue to play in Tate’s place. Rowson has 15 tackles over the last three games, and he recorded his first career sack Saturday.
It was an abbreviated first season at linebacker for Tate, who originally committed to Maryland as a wide receiver and was shifted to defense before his first practice as a freshman. He started four games as a sophomore in 2009, then blossomed last season into all-conference safety.
Tate had 100 tackles (8.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions as the Terps improved from 2-10 to 9-4. He said at the ACC’s preseason kickoff event he received a second- or a third-round grade from the NFL’s draft advisory panel, which helped him decide to stay at Maryland amid the coaching transition from Ralph Friedgen to Edsall.
“I knew I’d be closer to my degree and definitely with this whole lockout thing, I was like ‘That’s not even worth it,’” Tate said in July. “I’m glad the NFL has come to an agreement and there will be NFL football this year, but back then [I thought] I would definitely have a season, I’d be closer to graduating and the NFL is not going anywhere.”
Edsall moved the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder to linebacker before spring practice, and the shift was far from perfect. Edsall described Tate’s play in the season’s first two games as “average,” and Tate said he felt he “didn’t play that well” in a mid-September loss to West Virginia.
The chance for Tate to improve upon those early results must now wait for next season.
—- Patrick Stevens