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Arizona to continue mixing in backup quarterbacks

Jamarye Joiner made his first career appearance Saturday, and Kevin Doyle could be next

NCAA Football: California at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting things heading into the 2018 season was seeing how teams would use the new redshirt rule that allows players to appear in up to four games and still retain a year of eligibility.

It turns out the Arizona Wildcats view it as a way to get their young quarterbacks’ feet wet in pressure-packed situations.

True freshman Jamarye Joiner made his first career appearance Saturday vs. Cal, taking the field for UA’s third offensive series. It was a planned substitution, but it came at an interesting time, seeing Arizona was leading 10-7 and had been moving the ball well.

The Wildcats went 3-and-out in Joiner’s lone series and never really moved the ball after that, but Coach Kevin Sumlin doesn’t regret the decision to insert his freshman QB.

“That was great experience for him the other night and we wanted to give him more … but it didn’t make sense to put him in in the situation (we were in),” Sumlin said, adding that he wanted Joiner to return in the third quarter.

Sumlin commended Joiner, a three-star recruit, for the way he has progressed since arriving on campus, but said other untested quarterbacks like Kevin Doyle could be next to get an opportunity.

“Just because that happened the other night doesn’t mean the other quarterbacks aren’t coming along too,” Sumlin said. “So we have to have a plan based on where we are in this league and who’s going to give us the best chance to win in those games.”

Rhett Rodriguez had been Khalil Tate’s backup, but Sumlin went with Joiner on Saturday because he had already seen what Rodriguez can do. The sophomore played against Houston and Southern Utah, completing six of seven passes for 49 yards.

“There’s a lot of different situations on this team where Rhett’s going to play. Like I told you guys, we’ll give you a depth chart but it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not necessarily 1-2-3-4,” Sumlin said.

“We really know what we have in Rhett, that’s why he’s played. I think he’s done a nice job … and has moved the team and been in those situations, but some of these young guys ... it doesn’t hurt you at all (to play them).

“What it does is give guys experience and at the end of 3-4 games you make that decision (to redshirt them) based on how that year’s gone. There’s really no downside to a young guy playing now and getting this kind of experience because if we need him to be the guy, he’s been in those pressure situations … in case he’s got to start a game because of an injury or something like that.”

That makes sense considering Tate has been hobbled by an ankle injury all season, but you also wonder how removing Tate hurt Arizona’s offensive flow against Cal.

Tate led Arizona to 10 early points, got pulled, and then failed to lead another scoring drive the rest of the night.

Fortunately, the defense scored two touchdowns to lead Arizona to a 24-17 victory, but Sumlin’s decision to insert Joiner when he did might have drawn much more criticism — and rightfully so — if the defense didn’t come to the rescue.

“If you’re scared to play people, when are you going to play them?” Sumlin said. “Khalil hasn’t been 100 percent, and we have to have a plan for that. Is that to wait until he gets hurt?”