Every day here at Your Best 11, we are counting down to the start of the regular season with our Top 150 players for the 2012 season.
No. 116: Kenny Tate, No. 6, Maryland, Linebacker
One of the most unfortunate happenings of the 2011 season was what transpired with Maryland's standout safety Kenny Tate. First, the safety was moved to linebacker by new coach Randy Edsall. One of the nation's best safeties was moved out of position and forced to adjust to a new scheme. To make matters worse, the senior campaign of Tate was submarined by a catastrophic knee injury four games into the year. Tate was able to receive a medical redshirt for his missed time, and so he is back for action in College Park.
At the safety position Tate was a superb player. He had great range and an ability to play both fast and physical football. With Kenny Tate moved to the linebacker position, he gets to utilize those same skills to his advantage in the box. Even though Tate played just three full games at the position, you could see the evolution of his game as he grew into the linebacker role. In the first contest, he was being swallowed up by the wash and getting to the ball late after struggling to fend off blockers. After one game, he started to figure out how to get through blockers and corral ball carriers while operating in tighter quarters.
Tate's a sound tackler, and whether he is at linebacker or safety that will remain a plus for him. He has a great understanding of the game and was exhibiting solid growth at the linebacker position prior to his injury.
Coming off a serious knee injury, the big weakness is the question about his health. Kenny Tate was a phenomenal player; will he still be elite after surgery and rehab? Plenty of players come back and can play, but it will be interesting to watch Tate, still playing out of position, work himself back into shape and grow into a linebacker. The scheme itself asks a lot out of Tate, and as he starts to test his knee, the big issue will be seeing how he handles offensive linemen and tight ends pushing against him.
If he's healthy, expect Tate to continue to grow into the position and truly live up to his coaches' expectations. He is fully capable of crossing the 100 tackle plateau in this defensive scheme, and with his nose for the football, I expect a healthy Tate to contend for an All-ACC spot. There will be some tough spots, with games against WVU, GT, Clemson and UNC and their unorthodox offensive styles, and Tate's ability to play both the run and pass will be tested.
Photo via Sports Illustrated