Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate has come a long way in a short time
Notes and takeaways from the Arizona Wildcats’ post-practice media availability Wednesday morning as Oregon State week continues:
* How far has sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate come in the past year? Senior tailback Nick Wilson said he had to help Tate call plays against USC last season. “Khalil was out there lost, clueless. Didn’t know what was going on,” Wilson said. “I’m over here trying to call the plays for him, trying to help him. Not a lot of people know that. Seeing Khalil succeed from that to what he is now, it’s satisfying as hell.”
* What would UA coach Rich Rodriguez like to see out of Tate on Saturday night vs. Oregon State? “Really just running the offense,” Rodriguez said. “Don’t force the issue. Don’t try to do too much, too soon. He has big-play ability, of course, throwing and running. But he’s gotta let the game come to him.”
* More from Rodriguez on Tate finding that balance: “You’ll see something. You want to make a play. You’ve gotta use your ability within what the scheme calls for.”
* Rodriguez on Tate’s emotional reaction to last week’s loss at USC: “Winning’s important to him, and that’s the way it should be.”
* Receiver Shun Brown was working on the side with a yellow jersey and a boot on his right foot. Brown is Arizona’s leading receiver and top punt returner. Expect Tony Ellison to have an expanded role if Brown is unable to play vs. Oregon State.
* Arizona running backs had only 15 carries vs. USC. “That is a really low number for us,” Rodriguez said. It was, in fact, a season low. Don’t be surprised if that number is doubled vs. OSU.
* Rodriguez has some concerns about Arizona’s freshmen - who make up almost half the defense - hitting a wall. The Wildcats are in the midst of playing eight straight weeks. Coaches are monitoring the young players’ reps in practice.
* Rodriguez and players talked about the need to react quicker on defense. Rodriguez also mentioned getting more bodies to the ball. That will be key vs. big Beavers back Ryan Nall.
* Rodriguez on senior defensive tackles Luca Bruno and Parker Zellers: “Their attitude is as good as it could be. Selfless. Work hard. ‘What do you need, Coach?’ ”
* Bruno said the foot injury that slowed him for much of 2016 was a torn arch.
* Zellers, who was ejected for targeting vs. UCLA, on the current targeting rules: “It’s so much easier to slow it down and watch it on TV, watch the replay and judge it off that. When you’re out there, everything’s moving so fast. You’re just playing football.”
* Rodriguez didn’t name names but said that “10 or 12” freshmen who are redshirting will be competing for jobs in spring. That speaks to Arizona’s improved depth via the 2017 recruiting class.
* D-line coach Vince Amey said he’d like to add three more defensive tackles to the Wildcats’ 2018 class. That will be a challenge, but he’s optimistic.
* Is there any worry of an Arizona letdown this week vs. heavy underdog OSU? “There shouldn’t be,” Rodriguez said. “For us, there’s still a lot at stake with our status in the league and our bowl status. On top of that, the seniors’ last home game. It’s a big week for us.”
* Something to keep in mind Saturday night: Rodriguez senses that Oregon State is playing with a nothing-to-lose approach under interim coach Cory Hall. Expect trick plays and ultra-aggressive play-calling.
* Rodriguez and Arizona players said this week that the season has gone by fast - especially compared to last year, when it was more like, “When is this ever going to end?”
* The Wildcats practiced inside Arizona Stadium. The grass at Kindall/Sancet was still wet from Tuesday night’s rain. Rodriguez said players were slipping during Tuesday’s morning workout.