The Arizona Wildcats made a noteworthy decision to insert backup quarterback Grant Gunnell late in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s loss to Washington.
It marked the third game the true freshman has appeared in this season, pushing him closer to the four-game limit afforded to redshirt players.
What’s more is that the Wildcats were trailing by multiple scores, and deploying Gunnell in a blowout—as opposed to starting him or using him in a game in which he could impact the final result—seemed like a questionable way to exhaust one of those precious four games.
But it makes more sense after hearing Kevin Sumlin’s reasoning.
“I’m not worried about Grant’s redshirt; Grant needs to play,” the UA coach said Monday at his weekly press conference. “There’s never been a plan for Grant to be redshirted this whole year. He’s the backup quarterback, and so if something happens he needs to be able to play.”
Kevin Sumlin on QB Grant Gunnell entering late vs. Washington: “It was time for him to play. ... I’m not worried about Grant’s redshirt.” pic.twitter.com/O2XLCMdWfm— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) October 14, 2019
On one hand, that could be seen as a short-sighted stance since an extra year of eligibility, on the surface, is more valuable than some fourth-quarter reps in a game that’s already been decided.
But Gunnell is projected to be Arizona’s starter next season, and one could argue that any game experience, even garbage time reps, can be a real benefit come 2020, when Arizona will have an experienced roster around him and be in position to win-now.
There is also the possibility that Gunnell isn’t interested in redshirting and being in college for five years. He was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school in Texas where he broke the state’s all-time passing yards and touchdowns records, and is viewed by many to possess NFL potential because of his height and arm talent.
It certainly will be interesting to see how this situation is handled moving forward. As of now Gunnell can still redshirt, so perhaps the team’s view will change. Or maybe there won’t be any prime opportunities for him to play and he can stay within the four-game limit naturally.
Who knows? Maybe the staff gets frustrated by Khalil Tate‘s inconsistency and Gunnell becomes the starter soon and easily exceeds the four-game limit.
Sumlin clarifies comment on Tate’s health
Sumlin raised more eyebrows after Saturday’s game when he said he didn’t know if Tate is 100 percent healthy. Isn’t that something the head coach should know so he can game plan accordingly?
“It was probably a bad answer,” Sumlin clarified Monday. “Yeah, we are in contact with our medical department, with our trainers all the time. But individually you’ve got to know yourself if you’re healthy and if you’re not.”