Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 15 days

We have reached only 15 days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 campaign under new coach Kevin Sumlin. The season begins when Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium.

To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which includes memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.

The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats left the WAC to join the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

To catch up on the countdown — which included in-depth analysis and reader polls on The Great Debate of which team was better — 1993 or 1998 — click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

Top 25 developments in Pac-10/12 era

Over the last part of the countdown we are ranking the top 25 developments of Arizona’s Pac-10/12 existence that started in 1978 when it arrived with ASU from the WAC. The ranking will include player highlights, team accomplishments, coaching moves and other off-field developments. If a player is involved, the ranking includes happenings only during the course of that athlete’s time at Arizona.

The ranking up to now:

No. 25: Darryll Lewis’ 1990 season

No. 24: Chris McAlister’s career

No. 23: Mike Stoops’ tenure

No. 22: Rob Waldrop’s career

No. 21: Scooby Wright III’s 2014 season

No. 20: Rich Rodriguez’s tenure

No. 19: Win over No. 1 Washington in 1992

No. 18: John Mackovic coaching fiasco

No. 17: Arizona Stadium upgrades

No. 16: Win at Notre Dame in 1982

No. 15

Khalil Tate phenomenon

If Khalil Tate keeps this up, his status in this ranking will go higher … much higher.

Tate’s national hype entering this season rivals — or is better — than that of linebacker All-American linebacker Ricky Hunley entering his senior season in 1983 and linebacker Scooby Wright III following his monumental 2014 season that helped Arizona win the Pac-12 South.

Tate’s breakout performance last season, which captured the nation on weekly highlight reels, why he is a phenom.

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After entering last season as the backup to Brandon Dawkins, Tate made his first start of the season against Colorado in the fourth game of the season. In that game, he rushed for an FBS quarterback record 327 yards, breaking the previous record of 321 held by Jordan Lynch. He became the starting quarterback without question after that performance. He would follow up that performance with wins over UCLA, Cal, and Washington State, being named Pac-12 Offensive player of the week for four consecutive weeks, setting a conference record.

Before stalling with with late-season shoulder problems, Tate finished with 1,411 rushing yards on only 153 carries, an eye-popping 9.2 yards per carry. He also completed 62 percent of his passes (111 of 179) for 1,591 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Tate is among the list of favorites in Las Vegas to challenge for the Heisman Trophy. Sports Illustrated recently ran an article with Tate on the cover with the heading, “Hand him the Heisman.”

The best to wear No. 15 …

The best to wear No. 15 in Arizona history? That would be hard-hitting safety Jeff Hammerschmidt, “The Hammer,” who was a standout from 1987 to 1990. He was an All-Pac-10 safety in 1989 who later served as an Arizona assistant under Dick Tomey and Mike Stoops. He is now the assistant special teams coordinator with the New York Jets, serving under former Arizona player Brant Boyer, the special teams coordinator.

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Wearing No. 15 now …

True freshman cornerback McKenzie Barnes of Fresno (Calif.) Edison High School wears No. 15. UCLA made a late push for him and Arizona outrecruited Washington State and Oregon to land him. He had 35 tackles last season for Edison, two of them for lost yardage and 29 passes broken up.


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.

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