'For the Better of the Team,' Tate Agrees to Move
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Less than 48 hours before the start of training camp, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen called freshman Kenny Tate and Tate's parents into his office for a talk Friedgen was not sure he wanted to have. He had recruited Tate out of DeMatha as a wide receiver, let Tate work out all summer as a wide receiver and talked to Tate about playing time at wide receiver. Part of Friedgen felt it would be unfair to ask the young man to make a complete shift after all of that.
But at around 4 p.m. Saturday, Friedgen approached Tate about moving to strong safety. Tate said his knee-jerk response was to decline, but after thinking over the proposal, he decided to accept. Just before a team dinner at 6 p.m., Tate informed his coach that, at least for this season, he was willing to perform on the defensive side of the ball.
"I was apprehensive talking to him because my credibility is very important to me and I recruited him as a wide receiver," said Friedgen, who said he consulted with Tate's high school coach, Bill McGregor, before speaking with the player. "I saw [strong safety] as a position where he could help us faster."
Tate will compete with seniors Jeff Allen and Drew Robinson for playing time at strong safety. Allen, who played in all 13 games in 2007 as a reserve safety and recorded 28 tackles, currently is listed at the top of the depth chart. Maryland had three starters from its secondary graduate this spring.
Friedgen said Tate will retain the option to move back to wide receiver at the end of the season. Tate was an All-Met selection after he tallied 32 receptions for 489 yards and six touchdowns as a senior at DeMatha. He also played defensive back, recording 48 tackles and four interceptions.
"I really didn't want to [make the switch] at first," Tate said, "but I thought over the pros and cons and then realized it wouldn't be a problem. I didn't have to move, but I did it for the better of the team."
Had he elected to stay at wide receiver, Tate would have faced a steep climb. The Terrapins have four key wide receivers back from last season -- Darrius Heyward-Bey, Isaiah Williams, Danny Oquendo and LaQuan Williams -- as well as redshirt freshman Torrey Smith, whom Friedgen has praised several times over the first two days of camp.
Plenty of Talent at LB
So far, players and coaches agree Maryland's deepest defensive unit is at linebacker. Senior weak-side linebacker Dave Philistin finished fourth in the ACC in tackles last season with 124, while senior strong-side linebacker Moise Fokou tallied 84 takedowns of his own. But both players still find themselves fighting to retain their starting positions.
Philistin will be pushed by senior Chase Bullock, who impressed the coaching staff in spring practice. Meantime, sophomore Adrian Moten will challenge Fokou at the opposite outside linebacker spot. Moten played in all 13 games last season and recorded 50 tackles.
"We're two deep; I think there's not a lot of difference between the first group and the second group, and that tells you [that] you can play a lot of people," defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said. "Last year, at times we were just trying to put three healthy guys out there."
Sophomore Alex Wujciak will start at middle linebacker after missing the entire 2007 season because of a knee injury.
Friedgen announced Monday that sophomore Dominique Herald has been suspended for the season opener Aug. 30 against Delaware because he violated team rules. The coach would not elaborate on the nature of the suspension. Herald was one of two freshmen who played in all 13 games last season, mostly on special teams. Though he is listed on the depth chart at strong-side linebacker, Herald will play at safety upon his return, according to Friedgen.
Friedgen also announced that injuries will keep three players out of practice for the next few weeks. Offensive lineman Tyler Bowen, a redshirt freshman, is out while recovering from an offseason foot operation, and freshman defensive lineman Joe Vellano is rehabilitating a shoulder injury. Freshman wide receiver Kevin Dorsey likely will have a foot operation in the near future, Friedgen said.
All three are expected to resume practice when school begins Sept. 2.