Pac-12 Media Days are what you make of them.
Everybody thinks they can win most, if not all, of their games. The players there eat up the attention (none of them show up to blow off the media — which is tempting to do during the regular season). The coaches put their best face on — remember Rich Rodriguez mucking it up with the water bottle toss?
Everybody is all smiles.
The media votes on a predicted order of finish that rarely is correct by season’s end.
Arizona is predicted to finish third in the Pac-12 South, which seems logical. We’ll see. Who’s the backup quarterback again to Khalil Tate if he can’t go on a Saturday?
Nevertheless, new Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin is worth listening to even during a Pac-12 Media Day because of this being his first season in Tucson after coaching in the SEC at Texas A&M. Surely, he can bring to Arizona what his predecessors after Dick Tomey — John Mackovic, Mike Stoops and Rich Rodriguez — could not. Right?
In 17 years under those coaches, Arizona went 94-103 and never experienced less than four losses in a season.
Arizona fans want more and are hoping Sumlin is the savior. The following are three of the top comments made by him today …
Here’s a few shots of Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin, quarterback Khalil Tate and linebacker Colin Schooler at Pac-12 Media Day here in LA pic.twitter.com/W13kdIfh7M
— Matt Moreno (@MattGOAZCATS) July 25, 2018
3. Sumlin talked about Arizona’s drive to compete for championships with the proof in the renovations to Arizona Stadium and the construction of an indoor practice facility.
Q. What is the advantage that Arizona brings that you can sell? What is the advantage there?
KEVIN SUMLIN: Oh, Tucson. We’ve got a great university. Just a fabulous campus. I think as people
get to know more and more about what our campus looks like, what our brand of football is like, what our
administration is about with President (Robert) Robbins and Dave Heeke is our athletic director, there is a vision there, a vision that they communicated clearly to me that they want to win and compete for championships in all sports, including football. In a lot of places you get that, but we’ve always started on an indoor practice facility, and going through a bunch of stadium renovations right now.
So, you know, I’ve done this long enough to know that in certain places they’ll tell you that before you get there. As a football coach, you learn what the word “rendering” means, because that’s up there for two years. Park a
bulldozer out there for two years and wait for the money to come in. But we’ve already started. I think that shows their commitment, and that’s what you want. You want to have a chance to compete on a level playing field with the other people in your conference, and our administration has given us that.
We told Kevin Sumlin he looks much happier now vs. a year ago. He very politely said he doesn’t really compare stages of his life like that…so I’ll just post this pic and let y’all decide. #PAC12MediaDay pic.twitter.com/vILQijzPLE
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) July 25, 2018
2. Khalil Tate is perhaps the “most explosive” quarterback Sumlin has coached, more so than Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Sumlin has also coached Drew Brees at Purdue and Case Keenum at Houston, but they are not exactly explosive.
Q. What is the biggest difference that you’ve noticed so far with Khalil Tate with other quarterbacks you’ve coached in the past?
KEVIN SUMLIN: He’s really fast, how’s that? No, he’s a guy that’s really explosive. I think that what he — he’s moving towards, as we were talking about, and we talked about in the spring is. Moving from being an athlete that is a quarterback, to being a quarterback that’s an athlete. If that makes sense.
How do you do that? And that’s called studying the game. Becoming a student of the game. Working and becoming a leader and accepting those roles. When you’re the back-up quarterback, you know, it’s really kind of a cool position because you’ve really got nothing to lose when you go in. You don’t get yanked. You just go back to where you were, right? So there is a little different pressure when you’re a starter, and it comes with the things that are expected of you. Not just on the field, but off the field and on the sideline. So that growth is taking place because, you know, as great as his numbers are, he’s really a young player and hasn’t played a lot. So there is still a lot of room for improvement for him. I think he understands.
"We've got a great university…There is a vision that [the Arizona administration] wants to win and compete for championships in all sports, including football." –@ArizonaFBall head coach Kevin Sumlin https://t.co/D1UEgVtKDS pic.twitter.com/qS0lJpQhZb
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) July 25, 2018
1. Perhaps a throwback jersey and helmet will be worn in the near future (how about the block “A” from the Larry Smith and early Dick Tomey years?).
Q: Tradition is so important in football, but sometimes when you come to a program that has struggled to meet its expectations, you want to change things up a little bit. I know Mike Leach put a beach up in Pullman to get them more conditioned. Have you done anything differently to get the fans up or the players up?
KEVIN SUMLIN: I think I’ve done just the opposite. I think one of the first phone calls I had was with Dick Tomey (who coached) during a very, very successful period at Arizona, and really just kind of got his lay of the land of how things worked and how he was successful there, and the way he did things.
Then really tried to during spring football, had an invitation (from) previous players, and the players that were in Desert Storm … ‘Hey, look, let’s rekindle this spirit. I want you around the program. It was an exciting time when you guys were here, and we want to make it an exciting time again.’ How do you do that? What does that look like? That outreach with the players and having them close to our players to fuel that, we might even have a uniform or two down the road with a throwback deal. I’m going just the opposite. We’re looking for those days.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.