And so that’s exactly where Tate, an all-ACC selection, lined up when spring practice openedTuesday afternoon in College Park.
The practice was the first of 15 over a five-week period and marked the first opportunity for Edsall and his staff to work — on the field — with a Terrapins team that returns 14 starters, including quarterback Danny O’Brien, the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year.
O’Brien’s continued development figures to be critical for the Terrapins, who went 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the ACC last season. Just as crucial, though, could be Tate’s ability to adjust to the “star” position in Edsall’s scheme, in which he’ll essentially be an outside linebacker.
“When you watch the tape of Kenny from a year ago, almost 90 percent of the time he was playing down,” Edsall told reporters Friday. “He wasn’t playing back in the deep half, the quarters or a post player. When you take a look at his abilities, he’s better suited to being a linebacker.”
Tate led the team with 58 solo tackles and had 31 / 2 sacks last season. The former DeMatha standout also had three interceptions, which was tied for second on the team.
“I’m excited,” Tate said. “Coach told me that they wanted to get the best 11 on the field . . . so I have embraced it.
“I did a lot last year. I wasn’t playing traditional safety. I played a lot of linebacker on some downs. I played on the D-line and everything else, too. I can do the same things this year; I’ll just be closer to the line. It’s more [that] moving me to a different position is going to cause offenses to do something different.”
Edsall also moved David Mackall from linebacker to defensive end and Mario Rowson from cornerback to linebacker and Desmond Kearse from safety to linebacker.
O’Brien acknowledged facing a steep learning curve while mastering Edsall’s offense over the past three months, but the quarterback said he’s already certain of one thing: Edsall expects everything to operate at much faster tempo than last season.
O’Brien, a redshirt sophomore, said plays will be relayed from the sideline faster. He’ll call them faster. And, if everything runs smoothly, the time from the moment the ball is spotted by the official to the moment it’s snapped won’t allow opposing defenses to adjust.
“We’re going to mix it up,” O’Brien said hours before taking the field for the first day of spring practice Tuesday. “A little more no-huddle than we have in the past. I don’t know if it’s going to be like Oregon, [but] we want to keep the defense on their toes.”
In addition to packing on eight pounds of muscle onto his 6-foot-3, 213-pound frame, O’Brien said he worked on his agility and, of course, spent countless hours buried in the pages of an entirely new playbook.
“It’s tough when you get a whole new playbook with a bunch of words you’ve never seen,” he said. “It’s like learning a new language.”
The most intense position battle this spring figures to be contested among the wide receiver corps following the departure of starters Torrey Smith, a two-time all-ACC selection, and Adrian Cannon.
Senior Quintin McCree and junior Kevin Dorsey are the top returners, with McCree notching 16 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown and Dorsey reeling in 15 for 187. Dorsey could have an edge given his penchant for big plays; he hauled in long touchdown receptions against Miami (42 yards) and East Carolina (45).
Others vying for playing time include seniors Tony Logan and Ronnie Tyler and junior Kerry Boykins, with freshman Adrian Coxson, a transfer from Florida, being a wild card in the equation. . . .
Quarterback Jamarr Robinson and linebacker Ben Pooler are not returning to the team. . . .
Offensive lineman Justin Gilbert, defensive lineman Marcus Whitfield and tight end Ryan Schlothauer are limited by injuries. Out because of injury are defensive back Avery Graham, offensive lineman Pete DeSouza, tight end Dave Stinebaugh and offensive lineman Justin Lewis.