Normally the good Professor answers a series of questions about UofA football, but this week all of the questions on social media and text message were about Khalil Tate.
There were several variations of the same question:
What is RichRod thinking? Why hasn’t Tate played before? Where did that come from?
First and foremost let’s discuss why we had not seen Tate the past few weeks. He was hurt during the Houston game and although he was medically cleared for UTEP, he was still hurting. What does not get discussed is that an injury may be healed, meaning that it cannot get any worse, but the pain may be too great to play. That seems to be the case with Tate.
Additionally, thanks to pain levels, Tate barely practiced leading into the Utah game, and was actually in the mix to get the start. Dawkins had a short leash against Colorado, but it did not matter as an injury opened the door for Tate and he kicked it open.
What has become somewhat apparent is that Dawkins and Tate are the exact opposite players. Dawkins is the superior practice player, who struggles to put it all together in critical moments of games. Some players are just better in the controlled setting of a practice where things are a bit slower. Where there can be time to think. Get into a game, and things speed up and decisions have to come faster.
Conversely, some players just fare better when the lights come on. Some players thrive in that rush of game day. Some players need to not think and just rely on instincts and feel and those instincts really kick in when a 300-pound defensive tackle is trying to kill you.
The best case of this may have been the Matt Scott/Nick Foles QB battle. Scott was the better player during much of fall camp, but in the open scrimmage Foles was the better player. Word out of the program was the Foles also outplayed Scott in a closed scrimmage. Scott got the start but was replaced in the second half of the Iowa game and Foles never relinquished the job.
We saw some evidence of Tate being a gamer last spring when Tate had an outstanding final spring scrimmage, which was by far and away his best performance of the spring.
Quarterback is a position that is held to a higher standard than almost any position. Sometimes a quarterback is picked as much on intangibles and the comfort level of the coaches as they are their physical abilities. The Arizona coaches want their quarterbacks to be leaders by example, which means being early for team functions, going the extra mile in “voluntary” responsibilities. Tate is known as a hard worker, and has put in work studying film, but he is barely 18 years old and there is talk of maturity issues.
Dawkins had some of the same knocks on him when he was a freshman. For many coaches what is acceptable for a starting tailback or defensive back, is not acceptable for a quarterback.
Then there is the possibility that things have started to click for Tate. For many players a lot of things can start to make sense as the season progresses. Last year he was still getting acclimated to college football and was thrust into playing. This year he has known he is one injury away from seeing the field and has had a chance to view things from those lenses. The fact is, he is most likely a better quarterback now than he was on September 1 and the same can’t be said of Dawkins.