The Arizona Wildcats have a quarterback battle on their hands with three talented options heading into the 2016 season. Two-year starter Anu Solomon, redshirt sophomore Brandon Dawkins and true freshman Khalil Tate will all battle it out for the starting job. Rich Rodriguez has continually said that no jobs are safe, leaving the door open for Dawkins and Tate to break through.
Brandon Dawkins saw limited reps in 2015, with appearances versus NAU, UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State. He didn't see the field for another five weeks until Arizona made the trip up to Tempe. Anu Solomon was ruled out and his backup, Jerrard Randall, got the nod. After Randall failed to get anything going, Brandon Dawkins took over, showing us flashes of greatness, and leaving us wondering as to why he had been the third-string quarterback the entire time. He finished the day going 16/30, throwing for 305 yards, rushing for 78 yards and totaling three touchdowns to two very late interceptions in an attempt to finish the ferocious comeback.
"I ended up really showing everybody what I could do and I feel like the coaches are starting to take me a lot more serious," Dawkins said about his performance against ASU. "Going with that, this is going to be a huge spring and fall camp for me and I feel like I'm just trying to come in and win this job."
"[It's] a lot more helpful," he said about having that game film from the ASU game. "Right after that week I watched it, but after that week was over it was right onto the New Mexico Bowl. I'm just trying not to think too much about the past now. I went over the tape with Rich Rod, went over it with Coach Smith and just learning everything I could from that and just moving forward, forgetting the past and just getting ready for the future."
"I learned from it. Obviously with that performance, it didn't end quite the way I wanted it to but obviously it's just a learning experience to get better from there."
This is now Brandon Dawkins' second go-around at spring practice, as he approaches his third year with the program. Over time and after collecting valuable game reps, his comfort level is an all-time high.
"[I'm] 1000 percent more comfortable," he said. "After finally getting some actual real-life reps, you know, more than just two or three reps at the end of the NAU and other games like that, actually getting real game experience like that made me a lot more comfortable in the offense and realizing what I can actually do with it instead of just going through practice."
While the two will be competing for a starting job, Anu Solomon and Dawkins have a great relationship, nonetheless.
"We're always pushing each other," Dawkins said. "Me and Anu are friends, but we still push each other every day and he knows I'm coming for that job. A lot of people see it as friendly but it's more Peyton [Manning] and Eli [Manning] than anything."
Dawkins seems to have a lot more confidence in his demeanor and game now, fully knowing what he can do in a real, meaningful game-time situation. For these few weeks of spring practice, Dawkins will be refining his skills and doing whatever it takes to put him in position to win the starting job.
"Get more comfortable and just further my knowledge of the position," Dawkins responded when asked what he wants to improve on. "Just everything."
On Khalil Tate
Then there's Khalil Tate, a top-10, dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. Tate graduated high school early so he could enroll at Arizona and join the team for spring practice. He went through his first official college practice and will make his case for playing time this season.
"Khalil's doing good. He's starting to pick it up," Dawkins said. "He just got here so it just takes time. That was a big thing when I got here, there's just so much to learn especially with how they teach it here. They teach it with more learning through practice and things like that. You don't really have a set playbook you can just learn off."
Arizona had to use three quarterbacks last year, so even though only one will win the job, it's still important for the others to be ready to play.
"We're all getting [Tate] ready, since you never know when someone is going to get in," Dawkins said.