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Khalil Tate named best quarterback in Pac-12 by Athlon Sports

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A true Heisman contender

Oregon State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most electrifying players in all of college football.

He also happens to be the No. 1 quarterback in the Pac-12, according to Athlon Sports.

Here’s their explanation:

Tate emerged as one of college football’s most dynamic playmakers last season and should thrive under the tutelage of new coach Kevin Sumlin and coordinator Noel Mazzone. The junior is among the leading candidates to win the Heisman Trophy in 2018 after accumulating 3,002 total yards and 26 overall scores last fall.

Tate ranked ahead of Washington's Jake Browning, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Utah’s Tyler Huntley and ASU’s Manny Wilkins to round out the top five.

In just eight starts in 2017, Tate took the college football world by storm when he entered for an injured Brandon Dawkins in week five of the regular season.

It was the start of a four-game win streak for Arizona, and suddenly injected life back into the program. Tate became the first player in Pac-12 history to win Player of the Week honors four weeks in a row.

He finished the season completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Tate started to show great touch and precision on his throws as the season went on, connecting on the deep ball with Tony Ellison and Shawn Poindexter.

The success did come with some growing pains, making some ill-advised throws and running out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away.

But Tate did most of his damage on the ground, rushing 153 times for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging just over nine yards a carry. Just when a defender thought they had tracked him down, he slipped away and broke out for big yardage.

His 1,411 rushing yards puts him at No. 4 in Arizona’s single season rushing yard record book, behind Ka’Deem Carey’s 2012 and 2013 seasons, and Trung Candidate’s 1999 season.

Tate finished the season 4-4 as a starter, and will look to improve on that record in Noel Mazzone’s offense in 2017, which features more screen passes to running backs and slot receivers, forcing the defense to stay honest in all areas.

Arizona returns all but one receiver, Tyrell Johnson. The receiving core isn’t as strong in years past, but there is a raw crop of freshmen coming in as well.

Poindexter, Ellison, Shun Brown, and Bryce Wolma figure to be the leaders in the pass catching game.

Tate’s offensive line will need some work. The unit has to replace four-year starter Jacob Alsadek and two-year starter Gerhard de Beer. There is also a void at left guard, where former four-star recruit Michael Eletise will likely step in.

Tate single handedly won Arizona games last season with his performances. And Arizona figures to have a favorable schedule this season, missing both Washington and Stanford in the north.

If Tate can improve his ball placement, limit the mental mistakes and continue his improved play making abilities, he can help vault Kevin Sumlin and Arizona into the Pac-12 Championship Game while competing for the Heisman Trophy.