Junior Brandon Tate is well known to Tar Heel fans for his explosive kick and punt return skills, but this season, he is expected to make a bigger impact on the UNC offense as a wide receiver. Tate, who is currently working with the first team, is pleased with the way camp is going thus far.
"Camp's going real good. Everybody's trying to get better every day, going out trying to impress the coaches. Everybody is working for playing time. Camp is going pretty good so far," Tate said. "This year, the coaches are giving me a chance to show what I can do on offense, so I've just got to go out and show them that I really want to play by getting into the playbook, and knowing the plays when I get out there. The coaches; the coaches have got a lot of faith in me, so I can't upset them."
Tate sees multiple similarities between playing receiver and returning kickoffs and punts. To him, it's all about making catches and using his speed to elude potential tacklers.
"It's similar; when you get the ball in the open field, and make a person miss, and just catching the ball for one, is just the same," he said. "Making a person miss; that's all it is, really."
While he is considered one of the more feared return men in the ACC, and was named the Rivals.com preseason first-team All-ACC returner, Tate is humble about his talents. He is trying to serve as a positive role model for his younger teammates, who are looking at him as an example of how to carry themselves on the field.
"I don't really think of it like that," said Tate, when asked about being feared as a return man. "I just go out every game, and I just humble myself before every game, and just try to do better and better every game. I'm trying to become a better leader, too, trying to show the freshmen the way to do things. If the coaches get on you, don't get down; just bounce back. I'm just trying to show the young players how to do things."
UNC head coach Butch Davis sees the necessary speed and fearlessness out of Tate that separates average returners from great ones, and spoke highly about the junior's acceleration skills.
"I think of all the kick returners that I've seen, the one common thread that runs through all of them is that they're fearless," Davis said. "They love the challenge of getting the ball and trying to take it to the house, whether it's great punt returners or great kick returners. You cannot run tentatively; Holes are going to only open for fractions of a second. Timing and execution of the blocking; if it happens, the window that it opens might only be a split second, and you have got to have the great acceleration and burst, and certainly he (Tate) has got that. "
Tate likes the way the UNC coaches are working the ball around to several different players within the framework of the offense, and sees his teammates working hard to improve before the regular season begins.
"The offense is good; they're trying to get everybody the ball," Tate said. "Everybody is getting a chance to make a big play. We're just going out and working hard."
In addition to the hard work being put in by the Tar Heel players, Tate sees an exciting new attitude within the UNC program. The personnel is confident that they can turn North Carolina's program into a winner, and they're not looking to do it in a few years. They believe they can pull off some upsets this coming year, and compete not only for a bowl berth, but possibly for the ACC title as well.
"This year, it seems like everybody is more focused and more serious about what's going on," Tate said. "We've got a winning attitude; we've got a whole new attitude about football this year. We're going to upset a lot of people this year. I think this team can be real good. I hope we can compete for the ACC championship. We're going to try to shock a lot of people this year."