Unassuming Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate came out of nowhere last season, becoming one of college football’s most exciting players on the basis of his electrifying running.
He was a preseason Heisman candidate this year, but unless things turn around quick, that’s going to be over as soon as it started. A lot of this blame will fall at the feet of first-year Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin, who is using Tate in a way that contradicts his skill set.
Tate is a substandard passer who is being asked to throw a lot of passes, and he’s the best rusher in the country, but he’s third on his own team in rush attempts.
This is madness.
Tate had just eight rush attempts (for 14 yards) in a loss to BYU last week, and followed that with a first half against Houston on Saturday in which he had three carries for minus-5 yards, but attempted 24 passes, completing 13 for 147 yards and an interception.
The result? Houston led 31-0.
Why is this man not running the ball?
At halftime, the broadcast team mentioned an ankle injury for Tate that changed Arizona’s gameplan, though Tate didn’t appear to be limping and in any case he was in the game, so it couldn’t have been too bad. Tate ran for 1,411 yards on 153 attempts last year, averaging 9.2 yards per carry while completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,591 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
It is fairly clear that the only real point of having Khalil Tate at quarterback is for him to carry the ball, and yet Sumlin has him handing off and throwing bubble screens and hitches, leaving heaps of athletic ability on the table while Arizona stares at 0-2. You can get 62 percent completions with 14 TDs and nine interceptions from anybody.
Only Khalil Tate runs like this.
Saturday’s game was presumed to be a bounce-back affair for Tate, Sumlin and the Wildcats, who are still getting used to each other. It’s evidently going to take more time.
Going into this, Tate and Sumlin looked like a good match, Sumlin having had all that success with Johnny Manziel and all. But as effective a runner as Manziel was, Tate is a different sort of player altogether. Manziel was the ultimate scrambler, whereas Tate is at his best when he’s running downhill with a full head of steam.
Sumlin’s offense is predicated on a lot of short, accurate throws complemented by a handful of bombs. It was an ideal offense for Case Keenum and Johnny Manziel, but it might not be the best fit for Tate after all.
Sumlin wants to run his system and doesn’t have a quarterback to do it. That’s a bummer for him, but these are the problems he’s being paid $14.5 million to sort out.