Maryland’s Kenny Tate was hardly a traditional safety under former defensive coordinator Don Brown. Often he was closer to the line of scrimmage than defensive backs and linebackers and sometimes took a spot aside the defensive linemen. Tate did his share of pass coverage, sure, but he also blitzed plenty and played in run support.
Photo by Christopher Blunck.
So while it was somewhat curious news that Maryland’s coaches moved Tate, who earned all-ACC honors last season, to outside linebacker, the senior downplayed the switch as largely a change in title and not much else.
“I’m doing the same things,” Tate said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m still covering, I’m still in the run game, so it’s not like I’m not doing anything I haven’t done. It’s just I’m in a different section of the field I’ll say.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tate’s new position is called STAR, a hybrid linebacker spot similar to the rover position he played the last two seasons. It replaces SAM linebacker, where Adrian Moten played last season, and allows Tate to use his size and speed in different areas of the defense.
“I’d say he’s a guy who’s just free to do what he wants,” cornerback Cameron Chism said. “He can blitz, he can play the run at linebacker and he can cover the slot. He’s just doing it all. He’s playing a DB, he’s playing a lineman and he’s a linebacker. He’s just doing it all.”
Tate, who had 100 tackles (8.5 for a loss), 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and four forced fumbles last season, is expected to be the cornerstone of Maryland’s defense, which shifts to a 4-3 under new coordinator Todd Bradford.
While Bradford’s scheme is not as aggressive and chaotic as the one Brown orchestrated, it has some of the same features, particularly in increasing speed at certain positions. This spring, Maryland moved Tate to linebacker; Demetrius Hartsfield from weakside to middle linebacker; and David Mackall from inside linebacker to ROCK, or defensive end.
For Tate, it’s the second time he’s switched positions at Maryland. He came to the school from DeMatha as a wide receiver before moving to safety a few days before the start of his freshman camp.
He took that change in stride, and he’s not broken up about the latest switch.
“I’m excited,” he said. “The coaches told us they want to get the best eleven on the field and moving me to linebacker was one of the things they incorporated with the new STAR hybrid position, and I embraced it. I’m looking forward to practice today and seeing how it is and go from there.”