Khalil Tate laughs about it now.
In his debut with the Arizona Wildcats last season, the then-freshman quarterback quickly realized he wasn’t in shape to run UA’s uptempo offense.
Shortly after entering the game against UCLA, Tate was tackled on a run play and was slow to get up.
Was he injured? Nope, as head coach Rich Rodriguez said afterward, “his big butt was tired.”
“I was tired and then I also fell on the ball,” Tate says with a smile, now 10 months after the incident. “So being tired and having the wind knocked out of you, (those are) not two things that go together.”
Tate’s excuse for not being in shape that night is somewhat fair. He was fully expecting to redshirt as a freshman.
But injuries to Brandon Dawkins and Anu Solomon, along with struggles by Zach Werlinger gave Rodriguez no choice but to trash those plans and send Tate out on the field.
“Last year, I was forced into playing and usually when you redshirt, you don’t that you’re playing, so you kinda don’t take [conditioning] as serious,” said Tate, a former four-star recruit.
Entering his second season at Arizona, Tate now knows better, especially since he is expected to be Arizona’s No. 2 quarterback, or even the starter depending how he performs in camp.
“I’d like to think I slimmed up a little bit,” Tate said. “I’m not sure if I’ve lost or gained weight, but I think I’ve toned up a little bit more.”
Tate was listed at 212 pounds as a freshman, and now weighs in at 215. But, after just one day of camp, he can already feel the progress he’s made.
“I feel a lot better on the field,” he said. “When you’re in shape, you can make better decisions, you’re more sound with everything. You’re not rushing things and doing things like a tired person would.”
Tate, still just 18 years old, said he now knows Arizona’s entire playbook and feels like a veteran in the quarterback room, being quick to answer any questions the newcomers may have.
Tate showcased ample arm strength and touch on his passes in the short amount of playing time he received last season, proving he has the skillset to play at the Pac-12 level.
However, he said he needs to improve his ability to read defenses and exploit their tendencies to take his game to another level.
And, yes, being in shape helps, too.
He doesn’t laugh about that anymore.
“Since [that UCLA game] I’ve taken [conditioning] a lot more serious,” Tate said. “And it’s helped me a lot.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire