After starting two games last season at defensive tackle and racking up 14 tackles, coaches decided it would be best to move the 6-foot-7 Tatum to the other side to offset the lack of depth. When Evan Mathis was moved to left guard, Tatum immediately became the No. 1 right tackle.
"Coach Shula took a look at our offensive line and realized the lack of depth," Tatum said. "He realized what kind of player I was and said I could make the transition. He sat me down and said 'We're trying to put our best 22 players out there. Looking at you and your ability, we'd love for you to take it and run with it,' so that's what I plan on doing."
It was odd for Tatum to line up at right tackle, since the only thing related to the offensive line that he's played before was tight end, which he did sparingly in high school.
"It's a little bit of mixed emotions," Tatum said. "I've been a defensive guy my whole life. But hey I'm a team guy. I just want to win. If me playing right tackle is how we're going to win, that's what I'll do."
But Tatum said that playing defense in the past will only help him for the future.
"It's a little hectic, but from playing defense I can catch on to a lot of tendencies and pick up on things that they're doing," Tatum said.
He already has help from several veterans, including Mathis and Wesley Britt, the left tackle who is sitting out the spring to rehab his broken leg.
"Wes helped me out a million (on the first day of practice)," Tatum said. "He's teaching me little things that will get that extra edge. He worked with me on teaching the minor things."
Mathis started at right tackle for three years before being moved inside to left guard. He knows Tatum has what it takes to succeed at the position.
"Coaches definitely have a lot of confidence in him," Mathis said. "As smart as kid as he is and hard of a worker, he'll have no problem. He looked like he had been out there for a while. Today was the first day, but he did really well for the first day. I played that position for three years so I can pass what I learned those three years and let him know what works and what doesn't."
Offensive line coach Bob Connelly likes Tatum's size. A tall offensive lineman can go a long way, and NFL teams in the near future could be looking at Tatum's vitals--if he can develop into a solid lineman.
"He's tall and rangy," Connelly said. "He's got a long wingspan so he can protect the passer. He's a good athlete. Fortunately because of the depth on defense, they were able to give him up.
"I think he's going to be an exceptional addition to the offensive line."