Remember the days when Arizona’s offense was an extension of its defense?
Under Larry Smith and Dick Tomey, two of the best coaches Arizona has employed, used the strategy that the best offense helps the defense with field position, time control through a strong running game, keeping the mistakes to a minimum and using a punting game to keep the other offense far from the end zone.
Tomey, who had mostly running quarterbacks such as Ron Veal, George Malauulu, Keith Smith and Ortege Jenkins, preached that too many pass attempts can lead to too many breakdowns with interceptions and incompletions that stop the clock.
Khalil Tate can also be classified as a running quarterback. He is close to 2,000 career rushing yards as a senior. He has attempted only 18.1 passes per game in his 29 games with Arizona to this point.
Compare that to the quarterbacks in Arizona’s two best seasons in program history in 1993 when Arizona went 10-2 and won the Fiesta Bowl routing Miami and in 1998 when the Wildcats finished 12-1 and No. 4 in the rankings.
In 1998, Smith and Jenkins combined to average 25.8 attempts.
In 1993, Dan White, a drop-back passer who handed the ball off more than 100 times each to Ontiwaun Carter, Chuck Levy and Billy Johnson, averaged 21.8 attempts.
Tate averaged 27.5 attempts last year in a season in which he opted to try to pass more than run because of an ankle injury and because of the thought of showing NFL scouts he can throw. As a freshman and sophomore, he averaged only — get this — 12.4 attempts a game. During his sophomore season, one in which Tate became a Heisman Trophy candidate because of his running ability, he averaged only 16.3 attempts a game.
This leads into today’s “What are you looking forward to the most?” category with some fans:
An offense — Randy Livingston
Can the offense click in year 2 under Sumlin. — Ryun Martin
An exciting offense that will give us a good chance in most of our games. — Ale-Alejandro Rosalez
Many fans equate an “exiting offense” with a passing game — again, see the Smith and Tomey years with the ground-control offense — but it is safe to say many of the fans would not mind to see Tate tuck it in more and keep the defenses guessing.
Wouldn’t it be odd to go back in a time machine and tell fans in the Smith and Tomey years that Arizona’s best attack this year might be mostly the run with the pass complementing a strong ground game?
“Coach (Chuck) Cecil, he went to my high school (Helix at San Diego). After D Flan (Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles) was gone, it was spring ball and I wanted something new. I asked Coach Cecil actually. I texted Coach Cecil and asked, ‘Can I get 6?’ He’s like, ‘For sure.’ They got it switched for spring ball.” — Arizona safety Scotty Young Jr. on wearing No. 6, which was worn by Cecil, the College Football Hall of Famer, with the Wildcats.
By the numbers
Arizona’s defense returns 69 percent (553-of-799) of their total tackles from a year ago, 119 of which came from junior linebacker Colin Schooler.
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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.