If there is one reason why the Arizona Wildcats can win the Pac-12 South in 2018, it’s because they have talent and stability at the game’s most important position: Quarterback.
Arizona is returning junior Khalil Tate, who was one of the most electrifying players in college football last season, along with redshirt senior Brandon Dawkins who has starting experience unlike a lot of backup quarterbacks.
That duo is worthy of being the “most comfortable” quarterback situation in the Pac-12, according to Jon Wilner of the Mercury News.
Wilner likened the situation to the one the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles had with Nick Foles and Carson Wentz:
Well, Foles played for Arizona, and Arizona just happens to fit the Eagles/Foles model of desirable depth better than any team in the conference in 2018.
The Wildcats have a potential star, Khalil Tate, and a veteran backup, senior Brandon Dawkins.
To be clear: I am most definitely not comparing Dawkins’ ability to that of Foles, an all-conference quarterback with the Wildcats and part-time NFL starter.
But on a relative basis, Dawkins is more prepared to play (a series, a quarter, several games) than any backup in the conference, based on current rosters.
The rest of the Pac-12 South is not so stable. UCLA lost star quarterback Josh Rosen to the NFL, as did USC with Sam Darnold.
Colorado returns Steven Montez and Utah returns Tyler Huntley, but neither were particularly great last season.
ASU is ranked third on Wilner’s list, as it returns redshirt senior Manny Wilkins, who should have another good season in 2018.
But all things considered it is fair to think Arizona could have the best quarterback in the Pac-12 South next season. Maybe even in the entire conference, though Oregon’s Justin Herbert surely makes a compelling argument.
So Arizona’s offense should be stellar again in 2018. Where the Wildcats are going to have to take a big step is on defense, where they finished 10th in the Pac-12 in both total defense and scoring defense.
Arizona does have talent on that side of the ball, to be sure — like freshman All-American linebackers Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II and “lockdown” cornerback Jace Whittaker — so it will be interesting to see how much those guys develop heading into next season, and how much the new coaching staff can maximize the talent it has on both sides of the ball.
Expectations were low for Arizona heading into the 2017 season, and it finished 7-6 which was a pretty solid year.
A 7-6 season in 2018 would not be satisfactory, however.
To see Wilner’s entire analysis of Pac-12 quarterbacks, click here.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire