Arizona Football

Gunnell’s First Game Should Make Arizona Wildcats Fans Excited

Right now, it’s Khalil Tate and his still-promising future as the Arizona Wildcats’ quarterback despite the question-filled loss to BYU.

He’s going at it alone at that position. The backups are still very inexperienced.

Brandon Dawkins left to Indiana as a graduate assistant and is now out of football.

Before the coaching change from Rich Rodriguez to Kevin Sumlin, 27-year-old quarterback Donovan Tate, the former first-round pick in the MLB draft, left the program after a year trying to make a comeback in college football.

Now, there are three freshmen (K’Hari Lane, Jamarye Joiner and Kevin Doyle) and a sophomore (Rich Rod’s son Rhett) who are behind Khalil Tate. Only Rhett Rodriguez has a snap in college in two games of mop-up duty last season.

You don’t have to be Nick Saban to realize that Tate is Arizona’s most valuable player — not only because of his playmaking ability, but also his very presence in his third year of playing at this level. If he gets injured (like he did last year at ASU), then what?

Next year, if Tate comes back for his senior season, he will have more meaningful competition with those returning from this year (if they return) and incoming freshman star Grant Gunnell of Houston, Texas. That will spark more sense of an urgency with Tate and his execution and give the coaches more confidence to unleash him.

Gunnell, a four-star quarterback who is Arizona’s must publicized recruit at that position, passed for 440 yards while completing 33 of 40 pass attempts last week for St. Pius X against Beaumont (Texas) United. He had five touchdown passes and no interceptions. He also rushed for 46 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns on the ground.

Gunnell’s team hosts La Marque (Texas) tomorrow night.

It will be interesting to see how Tate holds up this year with his inexperienced backups. Will they ever have to be used during a meaningful part of a game? Will Tate play with abandon like he did last October with the coaches — and himself — fully confident with that idea? Will he improve his passing game to make up for less rushing yards if the coaches do not throw caution to the wind?

Help is on its way next season with Gunnell. Also, the young quarterbacks now should be more groomed with Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone by midway through this Pac-12 season. Confidence beyond Tate for somebody to play in case of an emergency should exist by late October.

As it stands now, it seems Tate is on a very small island. He needs more room to run, so to speak.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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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