On this morning’s ESPN Radio broadcast of Dari & Mel, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said the Arizona Wildcats will be the surprise team of the Pac-12 and went so far as to say that 10 wins will be achieved if the defense significantly improves.
Kiper and fellow host Dari Nowkhah both picked Arizona to be the surprise team of the Pac-12. Kiper also mentioned that junior quarterback Khalil Tate is a candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year along with Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Stanford running back Bryce Love.
Interesting to note: Arizona does not play either Browning or Love in the regular season.
“Here is a team that won seven games last year and you have a head coach in Kevin Sumlin, I’m going to Arizona Wildcats (as the surprise team),” Kiper said. “Not only do they have the most dynamic quarterback in the league in Khalil Tate … solid running back, diminutive J.J. Taylor, top guys catching the football are back. Shawn Poindexter is a 6-5 guy they have great hopes for along with (Shun) Brown, (Tony) Ellison and (Bryce) Wolma. You look at this offensive line, it’s solid.
“The key though if Arizona is going to win more than seven games is the defensive side of the ball. They get nine starters back. They’ve got to find a way to stop the run (ranking No. 87 last season). They can improve. I think they got more stout up front. That’s a key to allow those linebackers, which are strong, to flow to the football. If they show improvement … if they show significant improvement … they can win, I think they can win 10 games. But I’ll say they go to nine wins. I thik Arizona with Khalil Tate is a team and a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12.”
Click on this link to access the audio.