Ahead Of His Time: Tate Shines In Early Debut

By Haley Stesiak

University of Arizona true freshman Khalil Tate made his collegiate debut Saturday against UCLA basically by accident.

Starting quarterback Anu Solomon has been out since week one with a knee injury he sustained in practice and sophomore Brandon Dawkins left Saturday’s game with a rib injury, resulting in Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez turning to his last resort in Tate.

“You have to prepare for (injuries) ahead of time,” Rodriguez said. “With that in mind, we thought ‘Okay, if we gotta play him we’ll burn the redshirt and get him ready to play.’ We were just hoping we wouldn’t have to.”

In August, Rodriguez said that Tate had “one purpose” with the Wildcats this season, to learn how to play quarterback at the college level. Saturday, Tate showed Rodriguez what he’s been learning.

“He was more composed in the game than he was in practice,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes guys get in their first action and the lights are too bright…he was spot on even when he made a wrong read or something, he knew right away.”

Tate doesn’t turn 18 until later this month. His young age and emerging talent would have made him an ideal redshirt, Rodriguez said.

“He would have been perfect,” Rodriguez said. “Seventeen year old kid, fresh out of high school, it would have been nice to redshirt Khalil, but if you’re good enough to win with, you’re gonna play.”

In high school, Tate was a four-star recruit who was considered one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Elite programs like Alabama and USC recruited him, but those programs were looking at Tate as running back or receiver, Arizona liked him as he was, at quarterback.

Against UCLA Tate, who grew up in the LA area, rushed for 79 yards on 15 attempts and completed 5 of 9 passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns.

Monday Rodriguez said that the coaching staff would come together make a plan around the quarterback position and the Wildcats injury plagued roster.

“They may be more inexperienced, so we may have to adapt some of our schemes and not just on offense and defense, but our special teams,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll have 11 out there. I don’t know how much experience they’ll have, but we’ll have 11 out there.”

Arizona (2-3, 0-2) plays Utah (4-1, 1-1) Saturday night in Salt Lake City