CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -Brandon Tate has spent the first half of the season proving something to coaches who no longer are with North Carolina.
With every acrobatic catch and end-around rush, the Tar Heels receiver has tried to prove that his fired former coaches made a mistake by seemingly pigeonholing him as a kick and punt returner.
Finally given a chance to contribute by new coach Butch Davis, Tate has shown a knack for rolling up yards - and scoring touchdowns - in a variety of ways.
``When I go out there and make great plays, I told the coaches last year I could do it, and I guess they didn't believe me,'' Tate said Monday. ``But they see now.''
His breakout junior season is halfway over, and Tate already has scored three different types of touchdowns this year alone - receiving, rushing and on a punt return.
His 14 receptions are nearly three times as many as he had combined during two seasons under John Bunting - who cast him almost exclusively as a return man - and his 955 all-purpose yards has him in position to challenge Don McCauley's 37-year-old school record of 2,021.
Tate's latest highlight came in last week's win against Miami when he took an end-around 54 yards down the left sideline for the first rushing touchdown of his career. It stands with the three touchdown passes he caught this season, his two career punt-return TDs and the three times in his career in which he brought back a kickoff for a score.
``Reverses to receptions to kickoff and punt returns, he's a field-position changer,'' Davis said. ``Because of his speed ... potentially any play has a chance to maybe go to the house.''
Bunting's failure to involve Tate in the offense may be one reason why he's the Tar Heels' ex-coach since it appears that last season's offense - which was desperate for playmakers - might have had one hidden on the sideline.
Tate said he jokingly lobbied to last year's staff, begging for more involvement, ``because I didn't want them to get mad at me,'' but they never explained why he was stuck behind senior Jesse Holley on the depth chart and couldn't get on the field more often.
He finished last season with five catches for 72 yards, and closed the season against Duke by becoming the ninth player in NCAA history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game.
``Sometimes the coaches would tell me I'm going in for certain plays, but they'd never call those plays for me,'' he said. ``They didn't ever say (why). I didn't really ask.''
When Davis arrived and began studying film, he wondered why Tate wasn't a bigger part of the offense. Now he hopes the receiving corps that also includes Hakeem Nicks and Brooks Foster can develop into a pick-your-poison scheme that someday might rival the collection of talent he had in Miami, which at one time boasted future NFL players Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson and Jeremy Shockey.
``As talented as Brandon was a year ago in all the kicking situations (he was) someone that maybe emerged earlier,'' Davis said. ``Not being here and not watching practices, I can't tell you why that maybe was ... We can't get stereotypical. The best teams I've been on have been teams where it's been very difficult to defend just one guy.''

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