Welcome to our new series in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, serious, or critical condition heading into fall camp. Next up are the quarterbacks.
- Returning Starters: Grant Gunnell
- Backups: Rhett Rodriguez, Kevin Doyle
- Key Departures: Khalil Tate
- New Additions: Will Plummer
Noel Mazzone has his guy now. That is certain. And with the way Grant Gunnell performed over his eight-game stint, it seems like Arizona could be on track to have a three-year starter at quarterback.
For getting thrown in as a true freshman, with a injury-riddled offensive line and a mid-to-low grade receiving group, Gunnell performed admirably. He wasn’t asked to make a ton of throws, but he was efficient while doing so, completing 65 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns to just one interception.
The analytics show he was one of the most impressive freshmen QBs in the country as well. Pro Football Focus graded him as the top freshman based on passing grade among, tied with North Carolina’s Sam Howell and ahead of Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels and USC’s Kedon Slovis.
If he completely goes off he could turn Arizona around.
Rhett Rodriguez has his role. He’s the extra set of eyes for the quarterback and if the injury situation gets dicey he can be thrown in for a couple of series or finish out a game to either sustain a lead or just get out and move onto next week.
Next on the backup list is Kevin Doyle, who has yet to play a down at Arizona. The former four-star recruit and Washington D.C. Gatorade Player of Year has been such a mystery since he arrived given his status on the depth chart. He’s a Mazzone quarterback, appears to have the talent, but for whatever reason has not seen any snaps.
With Doyle’s status in mind, it’s going to be very interesting to see how true freshman Will Plummer stacks up. He’s a terrific talent that was severely under-ranked as a recruit. He enrolled early but unfortunately did not get the full benefit due to the pandemic.
Plummer certainly needs his fair share of development and I think there’s enough comfort in Rodriguez as a very short-term answer as a backup. If Gunnell has to miss an extended period of time that’s where the real question of long-term backup comes in.
For now I think you have to like what you got out of Gunnell given the circumstances. The upside is there for this position group to be strong if he can step on the gas this season but he does make this a very top-heavy group. The backup situation is a little shaky given the fact that two of the four have never thrown a pass in college football. But with good health Gunnell can turn this program around.