COLLEGE PARK — — At 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, Kenny Tate looks like a linebacker. Beginning with spring practices next week, Maryland's All-Atlantic Coast Conference safety from 2010 will do more than look the part — he'll play it, too.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall said Friday that Tate is moving to "Star"— a hybrid linebacker-safety position in which he will essentially be an outside linebacker.
The shift means that Tate, a solid NFL prospect, will have undergone position shifts under each of his head coaches before his college career is over.
Shifting an All-ACC player might seem risky, but the latest move will require far fewer adjustments than moving to the other side of the ball — as Tate did under former coach Ralph Friedgen when he switched from receiver to free safety before his freshman season. Tate was accustomed last season to lining up near the line of scrimmage.
Edsall also said that linebacker David Mackall will move to defensive end. Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, a key returnee, is moving from the outside to the middle. The coach said the position shifts were made largely "to get the best 11 guys on the field" while maximizing players' strengths.
Tate, who will be a senior when the season begins, has no problem with the latest move, Edsall said after meeting with him.
"Kenny was great," said Edsall, who was hired in January. "I showed him the depth chart in terms of where we were going to play him and he was ecstatic."
Tate, from DeMatha, had 100 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. His 7.7 tackles per game were seventh in the ACC.
Edsall said Tate, who opted to return to Maryland rather than leave early for the NFL, "is better suited to be a linebacker" than a safety in his future. Neither Tate nor other players participated at Friday's media session at the Gossett Football Team House.
Maryland will return 14 starters from last season under Edsall, the former Connecticut coach.
Not returning will be backup quarterback Jamarr Robinson or linebacker Ben Pooler. Each have left the team, Edsall said. They are both on track to graduate this year but may transfer to another school — perhaps in a graduate program — to use their final season of eligibility.
Robinson was the heir apparent to Chris Turner in 2009. But Robinson battled a shoulder injury early in the 2010 season and lost his job to Danny O'Brien.
Robinson played only sporadically after O'Brien became ensconced as the starter in the second month of the season. O'Brien ended up throwing for 22 touchdowns and was the ACC Freshman of the Year.
With Robinson gone, C.J. Brown is now listed as the backup quarterback.
Last season, Brown took off around the left end against Morgan State and showed impressive quickness on a 12-yard run. But he broke his collarbone on the tackle and was out for the season. It was the first play of his college career.
Maryland will open spring practices Tuesday with at least a handful of players sidelined or limited as they recover from injuries or surgeries. The list includes offensive linemen Justin Lewis and Pete DeSouza, and tight end Dave Stinebaugh.
"The big thing for me on offense is making sure we can keep this offensive line healthy," Edsall said.
In 2009, the struggles of an inexperienced, often-injured line were a big reason why the Terps went 2-10. The line's play improved last season. All of the offensive line members return this season except for Paul Pinegar.
DeSouza's status is uncertain. He suffered leg fractures in a motor-scooter accident last season and hopes to return. Edsall said DeSouza has "a long way to go" but that he is progressing.
Edsall said a few other players will not participate in spring drills due to academic issues. He declined to name them.