Can Kenny Tate command a starting spot this year?
There are a few positions that you really don't need to worry about on this year's version of the Terps - positions with a lot of solid, productive players; positions like RB or WR. Safety is another one of those positions: the Terps are loaded. Their stable includes two five stars, last year's team leader in interceptions, and arguably the biggest defensive playmaker last year. That team leader in interceptions and one of the five stars are fighting for the strong safety spot - both these guys could be starters on almost any other team in the nation. This will be a very hard-fought, but even more entertaining battle.
The Contenders: Jamari McCollough, Kenny Tate
Jamari McCollough: The leader right now, McCollough is the veteran of the bunch. A fifth year senior, he led all Terps with five interceptions, including that mega-clutch one that sealed the deal against North Carolina. Even if he's leading now, he wasn't at the beginning of the summer, so it's clear the staff has no problem starting a younger guy. He's more a cornerback playing safety, but he does it well, and received some votes for defensive MVP, if I recall correctly. It'll be tough to dethrone him.
Kenny Tate: Tate has the looks of an animal in the making. At first, everyone was a bit concerned about his move to the defensive side of the ball, but he's proved to be a very good safety. He was ahead of McCollough early in the spring, He's athletic, has great size (6-4, 225), tough, and versatile - in other words, the prototypical strong safety. He'll see plenty of PT, even if he doesn't start.
Prediction: McCollough is the safe, reliable choice, but Tate is more naturally gifted. The interesting thing, and ultimately the X-factor, is that Don Brown has considered sticking Tate at a variety of positions - everything from safety to corner to linebacker. That could complicate his chances to be a traditional starter. McCollough will start at the beginning of the season; Tate will see the field, though, and may ultimately steal the starting spot by the midway point if Brown has no qualms sticking him there permanently.