WVU football: Maryland’s Tate not so easy to find on defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's offense knows whom to watch on Maryland's defense Saturday.
The Mountaineers just don't know where they'll find Kenny Tate from one down to the next.
"They move him around a bunch," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He's a guy we've got to keep an eye on. It's not something where we look to avoid him. We're going to run our offense based on specific leverage and numbers more than we are people.
"That's just always the way it's been, regardless of who the players is, but clearly he's a good player with a lot of experience and more than likely, he's going to be playing for a long time."
Tate, a senior from Forestville, Md., and DeMatha Catholic High, came to campus as a wide receiver. He played strong safety his first two seasons and was a consensus first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick last season as Maryland's free safety. He had 100 tackles and a conference-best four forced fumbles.
Now the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tate - the same size as Norfolk State receiver Xavier Boyce, who had eight receptions for 100 yards against WVU last week - starts at the "star" linebacker position for the Terrapins (1-0).
Yet he'll also play a little cornerback. And safety. And defensive end. He did all of that while making 11 tackles and intercepting a pass in the season-opening win against Miami.
He says he can play defensive tackle in pass rush situations, just like he did last year.
"You never know where I'm going to line up," Tate said. "I don't know how you game plan for a person when you don't really know where I'm going to be. I feel like that's definitely an advantage there. When an offense knows where someone's going to line up, they have plays they usually run for that formation. If you don't know where a person is going to line up, you don't know what to look for."
Tate made seven tackles against the Mountaineers last year and intercepted a Jock Sanders trick pass and returned it 53 yards. Last season he was the first Maryland defensive back to have 100 tackles since 2000 and he entered the NFL Draft, but decided to return to Maryland and get his degree.
After a coaching change brought former Connecticut Coach Randy Edsall to campus, Tate was moved to be next in line of the school's linebackers like E.J. Henderson, D'Qwell Jackson, Erin Henderson and Alex Wujciak.
The star position is a hybrid spot that allows him to play as a linebacker and a safety by taking advantage of his size, strength and speed. Tate was regarded as one of the 20 best high school receivers in 2007 and turned down more than 100 scholarship offers to sign with the Terrapins in February 2008.
Maryland had a crowd at receiver - including NFL players Darrius Heyward-Bey and Torrey Smith - and Coach Ralph Friedgen decided Tate was too good to redshirt when he could help elsewhere.
"I came in in the summer and was playing receiver all summer, but there was a rumor going around I was moving to defense," Tate said. "Camp started and Coach (Ralph) Friedgen told me we were short on safeties and asked if I was willing to move over to safety.
"He said, 'At the end of the year, if you want to go back to receiver, I'll let you go back.' When the time came, I was weighing my options and I realized I was starting to like defense."
* * *
THROUGH TWO games and 134 snaps, WVU's offense has no false start, delay of game, illegal substitution or illegal procedure penalties and hasn't had to call a timeout to organize itself during a fast pace, a no-huddle offense or a bunch of substitutions.
"Pretty fired up about that," Holgorsen said.
The Mountaineers had one 15-yard penalty against Marshall, but had seven for 85 yards against Norfolk State.
"One of them was a schematic thing we just got caught on," Holgorsen said.
"Four were holding on offense and that's all technique stuff that can be fixed. We'll go back and talk about technique and how we've got to get better. But we had two stupid penalties on special teams, one a late hit on Josh Francis and one a clip on Matt Lindamood that were just poor decisions and dumb football."
* * *
WVU DEFENSIVE end Bruce Irvin had the first three sacks of his career in last season's game against Maryland. The Mountaineers had eight after entering the game as the only FBS team without one.
"Honestly, I don't want to talk about last year," Irvin said. "I feel like it'll jinx me."
Not surprisingly, Irvin had selective memory about one hit that knocked quarterback Danny O'Brien out of the game. "I don't remember that," Irvin said as he hurried to another topic. He had only good things to say about the 2010 ACC offensive rookie of the year.
"He can throw the deep ball and get out of the pocket and make plays," Irvin said. "He's a good quarterback. He's still young and he's got a lot of learning to do, but he's not going to do anything but get better. I've got a lot of respect for him. I wish him well, but I'm still going to try to get after him."
Irvin has one sack this season and has seen teams scheme against the pass rush he and Julian Miller and Will Clarke provide. He expects more Saturday.
"I noticed the last two weeks we've been getting a lot of screens," Irvin said. "(The Terrapins) run a lot of screens, a lot of quick throws. They ran, what, 35 snaps in the first quarter against Miami and 20 of them were screens. They try to tire you out quickly."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142.