Pate is a tweener on the defensive line, with the body of a defensive end, but the ability and mindset of a defensive tackle. In a lot of ways, he's reminiscent of former Illini DT Jarrod "Chunky" Clements.
Tale of the Tape:
Pate's tape shows him consistently getting penetration in the pass rush from both interior and outside alignments. His go-to move appears to be a swim move, which is successful for him more times than not.
Once he makes contact, Pate does a great job of wrapping up on his tackles, and he is conscious about trying to rip the ball loose when he gets an opportunity. He isn't the most explosive athlete, but Pate makes up for it with a relentless motor and determination on every snap.
If he does move to defensive tackle at the next level, how much will the added weight affect his abilities? That is yet to be seen, but if he can have a similar impact as Chunky Clements, he could be a guy whose name you hear called a lot about 2-3 years from now.
How He Fits:
Pate enters a defensive tackle rotation that will feature fellow freshman Kendrick Green, sophomores-to-be Kenyon Jackson, Jamal Milan and Tymir Oliver, and rising junior Tito Odenigbo. The depth should be sufficient enough for Pate to have a year to physically develop before working his way into the mix.
With the physicality of Big Ten football, having more capable bodies on the interior of the defensive line is invaluable. Having Pate should help bolster a line that, despite being talented, has lacked depth for several years now.
Pate will likely get more play early against teams that are pass-heavy (looking at you, Purdue). But as he is able to transform his body into a true defensive tackle form, he should get increasingly more snaps, especially as a junior and senior.