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Arizona football: Should Brandon Dawkins or Khalil Tate start at quarterback?

Is it time for the Wildcats to make a quarterback change? Our staff discussed it

Northern Arizona v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats have a quarterback problem.

Ranked 79th in the country in passing efficiency, redshirt junior Brandon Dawkins has had trouble finding any sort of consistency through the air this season, especially when the Wildcats have faced upper-tier defenses.

Arizona is 2-2, losing two games that were winnable thanks to a young defense that’s been a pleasant surprise this season.

Dawkins has not progressed as some hoped, and now folks are wondering if it’s time to give somebody else a shot a position, specifically sophomore Khalil Tate.

Should Rich Rodriguez make that change, though? Our staff discussed it.

Ryan Kelapire

I think Khalil Tate should start (assuming he’s healthy), mainly because there’s nothing to lose. Arizona is not a good team, likely won’t make a bowl game, and its quarterback play with Brandon Dawkins at the helm has been subpar.

Plus Tate, a former four-star recruit, actually has upside and has never really had a fair opportunity to showcase his talent (getting a start as a 17-year-old true freshman vs. USC is brutal).

Granted, UA’s coaches get to watch the two duke it out in practice everyday, but Dawkins appears to have reached his ceiling — in fact, he’s regressed from last year — so why not see what Tate can do?

At minimum, he has the arm talent and legs to play at the Pac-12 level, something Dawkins is quickly proving he doesn’t have.

Whether Tate has the intangibles needed to play QB at a high level remains to be seen, but we surely won’t find out if he never gets in the game.

Also, if there’s anytime to make a change, it’s now since Arizona has a bye this week.

Gabe Encinas

I think Khalil Tate should start, but I don’t see it happening until Rich Rodriguez completely loses his trust in Brandon Dawkins, and I think it’ll take until after week six for that to happen.

Dawkins, who is entering his fourth year in the program, just isn’t cutting it. We saw flashes of what he can do in his 2015 debut against Arizona State, and he almost pulled off a huge win last season vs Washington.

But this season, the offense is healthy and he’s a had basically a full season as the starter, and is still not able to pull off complete drives. The offensive woes don’t all fall on Dawkins, but the inaccuracy and inconsistency certainly amplify the issue.

Arizona held Houston to 19 points and lost. And again, not all the blame falls on Brandon Dawkins, but it’s hard to look past four turnovers against Utah.

Now Tate, just 18 years old, holds one career start. I don’t think he’s the answer to Arizona’s problems, that was Braxton Burmeister, but I think you ought to see what he can do with an offseason under his belt.

But a concern with Tate was his mindset entering the program. As a four-star kid courted by schools all across the country, you would think he has the mentality and confidence to come in immediately and win the job as a true freshman.

We don’t know if Rodriguez is going to be around, but depending on how frustrated Tate is with the situation, there’s a chance he could transfer out of the program.

He might be injured, I get that. But it’s interesting is the fact that Dawkins played a few drives into the fourth quarter against UTEP, risking injury, when there really is no reason to do so. Especially when you have three very inexperienced freshmen.

Rodriguez doesn’t have a lot of time, but he needs to show promising improvement. You’re still seeing bad quarterbacking from a fourth-year guy. Might as well try to get more upside with a quarterback. But to be fair, we were saying the same thing about Brandon Dawkins with Anu Solomon was making some bonehead decisions too.

Christopher Boan

Do you want the long answer with a “but” or the short answer with an “if”?

The bottom line is that neither is a Pac-12 quarterback at this point, though Tate obviously has a better chance going forward than Dawkins. With that said, if I were Rich Rodriguez or Rod Smith I’d heed the call of everyone half-witted Arizona fan that’s been bellowing out “Go to Tate!” each snap since August and put the sophomore in there.

The only hesitation I have in anointing Tate right now would be the nagging injury he suffered against NAU, but that should be more or less cleared up by now, so why not give him the old college try?

There’s no question that Tate is the more skilled passing-wise of the two, and has the tools and size to survive the year.

Also, let’s face it, this season is at best a lost cause for the Wildcats, with it appearing more and more likely that the Rodriguez years are coming to an end, so why not give the young gun a shot?

Dawkins has been given everything necessary to compete, and has continued to shoot himself (and the team, by extension) in the foot.

Now is the time to finally hand the rope to the young fella, and see what he can do going forward in the Old Pueblo.

Jason Bartel

This whole thing is hilarious to me because we were literally doing the same thing with Dawkins and Solomon last year. The fanbase was calling for a change because Solomon struggled against BYU, and then that hand was forced when Anu hurt his knee in practice.

But man, what has Khalil Tate ACTUALLY shown in a game that makes you trust him so much more than Dawkins that you’re willing to go against the coaching staff? He makes the same bad throws and decisions, he’s less explosive in the open field running the ball, and he makes much worse decisions about taking (or avoiding) contact.

Granted it’s a small sample size, but Tate has only completed 42.5% of the passes he’s attempted in his college career. Dawkins? 56.6%.

The bigger issue isn’t who’s playing quarterback, it’s the coaching going on around it. Playcalling is the real concern. Put your players in a position to succeed. Rich Rodriguez isn’t doing that with his quarterbacks right now. Don’t call plays to line up with the offense you created. Call plays that mesh with the skillset available to you. These are the players you brought in and coached up, now use their skills appropriately.

Every time Arizona throws the ball on first or second down — especially down the field -- it’s an affront to the fanbase because that is obviously not the way to go about playing the game of football with these players. Run the ball until it doesn’t work. More passing attempts than rushing attempts in the first half in a winnable game against Utah? Give me a break.

That’s the real issue. Not who’s receiving the ball from the center.

Ronnie Stoffle

Another season, another quarterback controversy. With RichRod’s job potentially on the line, I can understand the hesitation to start Tate because he’s an unknown.

As far as I’m concerned, Arizona is 2-2 and could easily be 4-0. The defense has certainly played well enough to be 4-0 which leaves the blame on the other side of the ball. It’s not as simple as assigning all of the blame to the QB position but it deserves the lion’s share.

At this point in Dawkins’ career, we know he is a tremendous athlete with accuracy issues. My fear is Dawkins has reached his ceiling and we are on a trajectory for another sub-.500 season. The defense has improved enough to perhaps provide an extra win or two from last season. However, it would still be another sub-.500 season.

The case for Tate is he’s an unknown. There is too small of a sample size to say if he’s better or worse than Dawkins for this team. Anyone that says they know Dawkins is better than Tate is simply fooling themselves because we haven’t seen enough to really know.

I would start Tate for a few reasons:

  1. He would have two weeks to prepare with the first team as a result of the bye week.
  2. Someone new may provide the spark this team needs after losing two of their last three games in heartbreaking fashion.
  3. We know what we have in Dawkins and we don’t know what we have in Tate.
  4. It could be the move that saves RichRod’s job.