J. Brady McCollough examines the 25 biggest storylines in college football heading into the season. The sixth installment looks at Khalil Tate and Arizona.
A year ago, no player in the country got more preseason love than Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate.
Coming off a sophomore season in which he rushed for 1,411 yards (9.2 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns while also throwing for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns, Tate was a chic Heisman Trophy pick — even though he was switching from Rich Rodriguez’s read-option-heavy offense to Kevin Sumlin’s version of the spread.
After all, Sumlin had coached Johnny Manziel to the Heisman in 2012, and the assumption was that Sumlin would tailor his pass-happy scheme to the special skill set of Tate.
Then came the season-opener against BYU. Arizona fell to the Cougars 28-23 as Tate passed 34 times and ran it just eight times for 14 yards. The next week in another loss, to Houston, Tate passed 45 times and ran it seven.
As it turned out, Tate was hampered by a left ankle injury then and would battle with it for most of the season. That was an obvious reason for Sumlin electing to have Tate fling the ball all over the yard, and that decision will make a lot more sense if Tate comes out this year with designed runs playing a much bigger role in the offense.
Tate may want to show NFL scouts that he can play quarterback at the next level, but the only way he’s ever going to have that shot is by proving he’s an efficient dual-threat guy. His passing did improve as the year went on, as he threw for 2,530 yards and 26 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. The experience he gained in 2018 could help him reach his full potential in 2019, if Sumlin is willing to let him do what he does best and keep defenses on their heels.
Pac-12 fans would certainly benefit from seeing the explosive Tate who starred at Junipero Serra High in Gardena, the one who burst onto the scene two seasons ago against Colorado with 14 carries for 327 yards and four touchdowns, instead of the restrained player Sumlin featured last year.