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Bret Bielema believes NFL should give Austin Tate a chance

Nelson Chenault / USA Today Sports
Arkansas TE Austin Tate has one reception this season, but coach Bret Bielema says he deserves a shot in the NFL.

If Austin Tate never finds his way into the NFL, Bret Bielema won't be the reason.

The Arkansas coach advocated his senior tight end, who has caught just one pass on the season, for a shot at the next level. At 6-6, 263 pounds, Tate certainly is more than big enough. But as a prospect, he's largely anonymous.

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Bielema tried to change that in a Monday news conference, available on video on Arkansas' official athletic web site.

"He's a kid, in the spring, I couldn't work with because he couldn't practice," Bielema said. "Then he came in the last two weeks and made a tremendous impact, right away in the huddle. He just gave everybody a calming presence. I don't know what opportunity is going to be in front of him when this gets done. I hope to heaven he gets an NFL shot. I know he'd love to have it. I'm trying to use him in every way possible, on special teams, I've tried to incorporate him into everything."

Tate was a bigger part of the Razorbacks passing game as a sophomore under then-coach Bob Petrino, and as a junior under interim coach John L. Smith, catching 20 passes over those two years. Bielema's power rushing offense, however, didn't call Tate's number as often. Still, Bielema recognized a heavy value in the senior's contribution.

"If you can have four or five Austin Tates every year as a senior class, you're going to win a lot of games," he added.

If Tate gets a chance as an undrafted free agent, he'll have some strong company in the way of success stories. Some of the NFL's top players who entered the league undrafted include Tony Romo, Jeff Saturday, London Fletcher and Wes Welker.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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