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Kevin Sumlin discusses UCLA’s comeback, Khalil Tate’s scrambling and J.J. Taylor’s health, and more at weekly presser

kevin-sumlin-arizona-wildcats-press-conference-weekly-ucla-tate-swag-copter-ucla-bruins-pac-12 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats are back in action this Saturday night when they open Pac-12 play against the UCLA Bruins, a team that is coming off a massive comeback win at Washington State. The Bruins had been 0-3 before rallying from down 32 points in the second half to win on the road in dramatic fashion.

Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin was unable to watch the entire game live, but he said he watched the tape multiple times on Sunday after returning from a weekend of recruiting.

“What a game,” Sumlin said of UCLA’s 67-63 victory. “I think we counted UCLA scored 29 points off turnovers. They lead the country in punt returns, that was evident. You get 14 points off the return game and 29 points off turnovers, anything is possible.”

Arizona had its second bye last week, though the memories of the 28-14 win over Texas Tech on Sept. 14 are still fresh. It was the kind of performance that helped allay some fears the Wildcats were headed for a disastrous 2019 season, though Sumlin said he’s got plenty to still be apprehensive about.

“Everything concerns me,” he said. “We’re headed into Pac-12 play. As a head coach you’re always concerned about everything. You’ve got an explosive team this week that’s coming off a big victory.”

Here’s what else Sumlin discussed at his weekly press conference:

On if his team will be extra motivated for UCLA after losing 31-30 in Westwood last season:

“It’s UCLA. They’re going to have our attention anyway. I don’t care what records are, and our players know that, too. We lose by one point there last year. Rhett (Rodriguez) was playing (for Khalil Tate), we get a ball punched out through the end zone, we had a couple of turnovers. So they had our attention long before.”

On what he sees from the Bruins, and how they’ve changed since the start of the season:

“I did see their first game. They’re a completely different team if you go back and watch tape. What they did the first two weeks they’re not doing. All of it was a completely different game against Washington State. It evolved a lot in the last four weeks.”

On UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson:

“I think he’s getting better every week. He looked more confident Saturday night than he did earlier in the year. They spread that thing out Saturday and made Washington State kind of declare what they were doing on defense, gave him an opportunity to see some things and use his legs.”

On UCLA coach Chip Kelly:

“He’s had a big impact on college football. A lot of people were using tempo, but not as much motion, not as much pre-snap motion. RPO systems and things like that. You see it every Sunday (in the NFL) now.”

On the return of the Swag Copter to visit recruits in Phoenix on Friday:

“Everybody thinks it was something that was flashy for recruiting, it actually came out of necessity. When you try to get around Phoenix for a couple of games at night, or in Houston, at 6 o’clock on Friday, it’s impossible. I was able to see two different games. It was a productive weekend.”

On how the team spent the bye week:

“Last week we worked out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Had a short practice on Thursday, just to keep the guys in a groove. They had a different feeling walking off the field against Tech, and they liked that feeling. The message was, remember this, but remember what it to get here.”

On Khalil Tate’s penchant for running out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage:

“We’ve talked about that. We’ve talked about it right when it happens a lot. You don’t want to take sacks. Getting rid of the ball is prudent. The hardest thing to teach (a quarterback) is to keep his eyes downfield. This guy’s just different, his eyes are downfield and he’s looking to do something. Some times he just ran out of real estate, didn’t know where he was.”

On if J.J. Taylor will get more touches after being limited against Texas Tech:

“Let’s put it this way, we didn’t take him out just because we wanted to take him out. He got nicked up early in the game. He didn’t do a lot last week in practice.”

On several defensive players playing almost every snap against Texas Tech:

“We’d like to play more people, we really would, but we’d also want to win the game. You’ve gotta remember, it wasn’t always 28-14. We were behind in the third quarter. We had to get our best people out there. That’s what the bye week is for.”

On roster management and recruiting with only 71 players on scholarship:

“Everybody wants depth, right. In recruiting, it’s how you manage the roster. I don’t know if it’s a hindrance, we’d like to have more guys, but we need to have the right guys. Just to have guys doesn’t really help you. We want the right guys. And just because there’s numbers at the position, doesn’t mean that all those guys are really good.”

On why true freshman Kyon Barrs has gotten more reps:

“He’s 295 pounds, that’s one reason. And he’s a D-linemen. He’s been getting better every week. He’s a young, athletic guy. He can really help us.”

On DL JB Brown, who has only 3 tackles in 3 games:

“He’s been moving around (on the line) a little bit. He’s been pretty solid. He probably wants to get some more production, we’d like to get that out of him, too. We’ve rotated a lot of defensive linemen, trying to keep them fresh. He gives us the ability to play him inside or outside, that’s a tough duty.”

On the punting situation:

“We’re still working through that. We’re charting everything. It’s a competition. There’s a lot of positions like that right now.”