Instead, Tate moved to safety as a freshman, playing in all 13 games in a reserve and special teams' capacity. Tate continued as a backup much of his next season, earning four starts and developing into one of the team's better open field tacklers. His numbers rose from just 15 tackles in 2008 to 47 in 2009, including 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Maryland coaches were high on his upside, but few could have projected Tate's ascension as one of the ACC's top overall defenders in 2010. Starting all 13 games at free safety, Tate paced the Terrapins with 100 tackles and proved a jack-of-all-trades with 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions on the season.
Despite his production (or perhaps, because of it), Maryland is once again moving Tate in 2010. Big, instinctive and physical, Tate is being asked to move to outside linebacker. The transition comes with plenty of risk for Tate, who will have to prove that he can get off blocks and make cleaner open field tacklers if he is to successfully make this transition. However, considering his lack of elite timed speed, it is an evolution he may have been forced to make if he had hopes of playing in the NFL, anyway.
Tate appears to have the physical characteristics to handle the move. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, though. Tate's stock in the 2012 NFL draft will largely be dictated with how well he's able to acclimate to his new role.
Read & React: Appears to have the key and diagnosis skills to handle the move to linebacker. Can be susceptible to good play-action due to his aggression against the run, but is athletic enough to get back into position. Pursues hard and takes good angles to the football.
Run Defense: Used as a fourth linebacker throughout much of Maryland's 2010 season. Aggressively attacks the line of scrimmage, even showing the ability to take on and discard blockers at the point of attack -- though he was asked to do this only occasionally in the past and must improve significantly if he is to successfully handle the transition to linebacker full time. Good lateral agility to elude blockers and has the speed and manueverability to track down ball-carriers.
Pass Defense: Theoretically, Tate should be fine in coverage due to his time at safety, but much of his play at the position came in the box. Has a high, choppy back pedal and a definite hitch as he turns to run with tight ends and receivers. Possesses good straight-line speed for a linebacker, however, and closes on the ball quickly due to a quick burst of acceleration. Good hand-eye coordination. Tracks the ball well and can make the interception. Times his leaps well and boasts impressive leaping ability to along with his height.
Tackling: For all of his hype, Tate remains much more of a hitter than a reliable open field tackler, at this time. Good recognition of the action, but flies upfield a bit out of control and can leave easy cutback options for the ball-carrier. Too often attempted to pull down ball-carriers with arm tackles, leading to plenty of missed tackles. Needs to add upper body strength and do a better job of securely wrapping his arms around the ball-carrier for the take-down, rather than attempting to rassle them to the ground with wild, swinging arm tackles or by simply leading with his shoulder for the highlight reel collision.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Among his better traits. Was often asked to blitz from his safety position and showed an uncanny ability to time his rush with the snap count, often slipping past blockers to get a clean shot at the quarterback and/or running back. Possesses very good speed, as well as the lateral agility to elude. Besides his obvious speed advantage over linemen, however, Tate also showed surprising pass rush technique, including an effective spin and swim moves.
Intangibles: Turned down over 100 scholarships from other universities, including Florida, Ohio State and Penn State to attend Maryland. Investigated his pro status through the NFL Draft Advisory Committee before electing to return for his senior season. Tate will be asked to play the strongside or "Star" position in new head coach Randy Edsall's scheme..."
Keys off lineman quickly, stays balanced when asked to attack downhill and uses his long arms and natural power to consistently wrap on the play. Possesses good straight-line speed and has an initial burst out of his breaks because of his ability to drop his pad level before exploding toward the ball carrier.
At times will take some lazy angles and see his angle outpaced, but his length routinely gives him a chance to still tackle and warp on the play. Extends his arms well into contact inside the box but doesn't do a nice job holding up at the point, shedding on contact and working his way toward the football.
Breaks down well inside the box, routinely takes the proper angle toward the football inside, drops pad level and there is a natural pop generated on contact.
Looks a bit awkward in his drop, doesn't get a ton of depth, struggles to balance and seems to allow his footwork to get a bit wide when preparing to open up and run.
To his credit, he does a nice job sinking his hips in order to create a burst out of his breaks, but also needs to collect himself beforehand, which takes away from his ability to quickly change directions and close.
However, he's an instinctive kid who reads the quarterback's eyes well, feels routes developing around him and routinely gets early jumps on the football.
Possesses good straight-line speed for his size, as he looks like a 4.5 guy, but he plays faster because of his initial burst once he collects himself and his ability to routinely get early jumps on the ball. Will disengage ball form man in his deep half, takes good angles, breaks down well and can intimidate in the deep half.
Gets upright when asked to turn and run and routinely allows initial separation behind him. He isn't a guy who I would trust to get over the top in the deep half, but he sniffs out the ball well, exhibiting plus ball skills when asked to make a play and plucks well off his frame.
Impression: Watching him play as an OLB in 2011, I can say with confidence the guy isn't an NFL linebacker. He's a bigger safety who can tackle, is instinctive and can run. Looks like a potential starter at the SS spot where he can play in the box."
And this was just months after coming to the Terrapins as a wide receiver. The conversion to the defensive side of the ball was a smooth one for the 6-4, 220-pound safety-turned-linebacker and he ended his freshman campaign with 15 tackles and an interception.
By his sophomore campaign Tate was a part-time starter before severely spraining his ankle and missing the last two games of the season. With more playing time, Tate tallied an impressive 47 tackles and picked off another pass. Tate was expected to step into the starting free safety spot in 2010 and he stayed healthy and productive.
He ended the regular season ranking second on the team with 94 tackles. The Forestville, MD native added eight tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks. He also picked off three passes, broke up three others and forced four fumbles.
Tate is a bigger hitter who can rip the ball away from even the toughest ball-carries. He moved to a outside linebacker as a senior and was extremely productive through four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Tate clearly has a future in the NFL, but the question is whether it will be now or in a year. He is seeking a medical redshirt for a fifth year of eligibility. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to play either safety position or outside linebacker at the next level (likely to remain at OLB)."
At his best when allowed to seek and destroy, as he accelerates suddenly, covers ground in a hurry and closes fast.
Has terrific coverage skills for a linebacker, including good ball skills, but zone reactions are inconsistent.
Struggles to break down in space and can do a better job squaring up ballcarriers.
Has a uniquely versatile skill set but comes with concerning red flags, most notably inconsistent tackling and tweener traits.
Has a laid back personality that translates to the field where his playing temperament leaves something to be desired — does not play with urgency, violence or abandon and bust factor cannot be ignored.
Best chance to be an impact player might be to continue bulking up and fit on the weak side in a blitz-heavy 4-3 scheme."
For Tate, though, it could be harmful for his career. His ability to play the run isn't in question. It's what he can't do in coverage that holds Tate back. He's stiff moving around and struggles in zone plays.
It was somewhat of a surprise to see Tate return for his senior season. According to reports, Tate was giving a second- to third-round grade by the NFL Draft advisory committee. It's hard to see him improving his stock.
Games Viewed: (All 2010) West Virginia, Clemson, Miami, Florida State, East Carolina
Bold Statement: Tate will be drafted as a safety.
• Has been adept when asked to blitz. Normally has to have an open lane to the quarterback, but has a quick first step to get behind the line.
• Struggles to get off blockers when he's lined up directly as the line.
• Does a nice job of breaking down in space, squaring his shoulders and taking on the ball carrier.
• An intense tackler who can really lay a hit – both on run and pass plays. Is smart, about it, though and doesn't unnecessarily get penalties called on him.
• The big issue about Tate is that he's stiff in the hips. He struggles changing direction, especially when he's lined up in man overage.
• Quick to react to where a play is going to develop.
• Obviously has good size for a safety. As a linebacker, though, he's not quite big enough and will have to add a good amount of strength."
At 6’4″ and 220lbs, defense was the natural side of the ball for Tate. A one-year starter at free safety, Tate has the ability to start at the NFL level.
SPEED: Not a burner. Does have the speed to accelerate out of breaks and in pursuit. Will run faster in a timed workout than he plays on the field. Would benefit from speed training. For his size, he has good speed. Compared to previous safeties drafted in the top 45, he is slightly slower.
AGILITY: Does a good job changing direction in run support. Chops his feet well when transitioning from back pedal to forward sprint. Has good foot speed. Jumping ability is very good, should have among the highest vertical jumps in the draft class. Good flexibility.
RECOGNITION: Smart player who finds the ball on every down. Does not get sucked in by play-action. Did a fantastic job against Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Does a good job in zone coverage sitting and watching the quarterback. Jumps routes and can make interceptions off of reads.
PURSUIT: Very good in pursuit. Relentless. Works well through blockers down field. Does not look to go around blockers, but takes them on head-up. Will be an immediate impact in run game. Can be out run by top-tier speed receivers. Takes good angles that make up for lack of sprinter speed.
TACKLING: A strong tackler. Good form. Keeps his head up and looks for a wrap-up tackle. Does not go for a kill shot every down. A very technically sound tackler. Very productive here (94 tackles in 2010). Not timid. Very aggressive in coming up to make a tackle. Reminds of Troy Polamalu in this regard.
BALL SKILLS: Does a good job making plays on the ball in flight. Has great height to go get jump balls. Good range despite not having top speed. Height and ability to cover ground are valuable. Seems to always be around the ball. Does a good job attacking passes and can make game-changing plays here. Reads the QB well.
MAN COVERAGE: Stiff hips. Does not show great flexibility when flipping hips in coverage. Does not have speed to play outside in zero cover on receivers. Sufficient speed and agility to cover backs out of the backfield and tight ends. Does have the size and strength to bump tight ends off the line.
ZONE COVERAGE: Could be better at helping over the top. Some issues here are schematic and not a flaw of the player. Does have the range to track deep balls. Reads the quarterback well from a center-field position. His size is an advantage in zone coverage where he takes up more space and can use his range to get to many areas.
VERSATILITY: Tate is projected as a free safety, but he could also be considered at strong safety and perhaps even weakside outside linebacker depending on the scheme.
2010 stats: 94 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 3 inteceptions, 3 passes broken up, four forced fumbles.
Projected draft status: 2011 (Round Two), 2012 (Late Round One)"
Can make all the plays as he had 100 tackles in 2010 including 3.5 sacks and 5 other tackles for loss, while picking off three passes;
Instinctive player with excellent range who reads the field well and seldom bites on mis-direction stuff; physical tackler who is relentless in pursuit of the ball and finds a way through the traffic;
Has good speed for a safety or LB and can run with most backs and TEs in coverage, but lacks the extra gear and fluid hips to consistently match-up in man coverage against outside receivers;
Also effective in zone as he reads the QB well and breaks nicely on the ball; will also battle for the ball when it’s in the air; missed the final two games in 2009 with a badly sprained ankle."
Weaknesses: Still learning the FS position, he is not as solid against the run as he is the pass. Like many very tall players Tate is not hard to block and even smaller WRS and RBs can wash him out of a play by getting under his pads.
Projection: He could be one of the 3rd or 4th S taken depending on his workouts and he is like bigger Kerry Rhodes. He could have been a 1st or 2nd round prospect and perhaps a much better pro if he had stayed in. A great combine could push him into the 2nd, he's talented but rather raw."