Editor’s note: This is Mike Robinson’s first post for AZ Desert Swarm
When the Arizona Wildcats return from their bye to face the Stanford Cardinal on Oct. 29, they’ll be looking for their first win since Sept. 17 and an answer to their quarterback woes. Both will most likely be tough to come by.
The Wildcats entered the season with three quarterbacks, all of whom boasted serious potential, but seven games into a disappointing 2016 campaign, flashes of that potential is all that they have shown and their best work has usually been done running the ball instead of throwing it.
The season began, after much discussion, with last year’s starter Anu Solomon under center. Solomon threw two interceptions in an 18-16 loss to BYU, and too often seemed unsure of where to go with the football.
The following week, Solomon suffered a knee injury in practice, forcing Rich Rodriguez to make the move to redshirt sophomore Brandon Dawkins. Dawkins started the next five games, posting a record of 2-3, failing to finish losses to the UCLA Bruins and Utah Utes due to a rib injury and a concussion. That brought Arizona to true freshman Khalil Tate, who started against the USC Trojans because Solomon and Dawkins were both out with injuries.
Tate had shown flashes in mop up duty in the previous two games, but he was no match for USC as the Wildcats were defeated 48-14. Becoming the third-youngest QB to start an NCAA game as a true freshman, Tate was in over his head from the start, racking up more turnovers (2) in the first half than completions (1).
At 2-5, coming off a season that saw them win seven games, including a bowl game, the Wildcats are searching for answers under center and there doesn’t seem to be a good one.
Dawkins has been cleared to return from his concussion and he is expected to start against Stanford. While his passing numbers are the best of the three quarterbacks, he is also the Wildcats’ leading rusher and seems to do his best work carrying the football...not the kind of player you can build a passing game around. When you factor in Tate’s youth (he’s just shy of his 18th birthday) and inexperience, he certainly doesn’t seem to be the immediate answer at quarterback, so Arizona may be left with the harsh reality that Solomon gives them the best chance to win now.
On the surface, this seems obvious. Solomon threw for over 2,600 yards with 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions last season. Of course, if all else fails, the Wildcats could go with backup tight end Matt Morin under center.
Regardless of who starts, the likelihood is that the quarterback issue won’t be resolved this season. If the season had gone differently and Arizona was a higher ranked team, the necessity might be different. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the reality after the first half of the season. If Rodriguez hopes to find an answer next season and beyond, he needs to recruit better.
In any case, this much is true, in the four players who have taken snaps this season, the Wildcats have found necessary skills and traits to play quarterback in each one, but unless they can find a way to combine those into one player, they don’t have a starting-caliber quarterback.