Coming into the season, the Arizona Wildcats had dreams of having a successful season behind new head coach Kevin Sumlin and Heisman candidate Khalil Tate. Yet here we are two weeks into the college football season, and those dreams appear to be dashed. Arizona is 0-2, Tate has looked inefficient at best, Kevin Sumlin appears to have forgotten how to coach a football team, and the fans are already boiling with anger at how the season has started. Not to mention that school up north is 2-0 with an impressive win over Michigan State. Nothing has gone right for Arizona. Despite this, it is not quite time to hit the panic button on the Kevin Sumlin era in Tucson.
These are not Kevin Sumlin’s Recruits
After last season concluded, many assumed Rich Rodriguez would be returning to coach the Arizona Wildcats. However, Rodriguez was fired on January 2nd for multiple issues both on the field and off the field. Along with this, Rich Rodriguez did not have strong recruiting classes at Arizona, meaning there isn’t a lot of depth on this team. Arizona did not hire Kevin Sumlin until January 14th. To put that into perspective, that is almost a month after the early signing period and a few weeks before the normal signing period for players. Sumlin had no time to recruit. He is trying to fit players that were meant for a different system into his own style of offense. While there certainly are talented players on the roster, they are not used to this system. Implementing a system takes time to perfect and it is never perfected in two games. Once Sumlin can recruit players for his system and acquire more depth, that will be the real indication of whether he was the right man for the job.
This Team is Young and Inexperienced
Out of the 108 players on Arizona’s current roster, 73 are freshman or sophomores. Many of these players are being tasked with handling a significant role on the field. In Arizona’s last game against Houston, the offensive line featured three sophomores and a true freshman, all without experience. This is one of the main reasons why Khalil Tate has been struggling. Last season, Arizona did not have a dominating offensive line, but they had a reliable and consistent one. This helped Tate and the whole offense look deadly. This season, the offensive line has looked inexperienced and lost, which hurts the entire offense. On defense, the players with the biggest roles, such as Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II, are all young and developing. It will take time, but this team is young and as they gain experience the wins will start to come.
Now I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t any concerns with this team right now, because there are plenty of them. First off, the defense which has the same defense coordinator as last season, Marcel Yates, has looked terrible through two games. Arizona has little to no pass rush, which leads to breakdowns in the secondary. Through two games there hasn’t been a consistent run stopping effort either. The defense that was awful but young last year is, well, awful but a little bit older this year. For Arizona to rebound this season, the defense needs to improve in a hurry.
On offense, the play calling has not been called to the strengths of the offense. Khalil Tate is not an accurate passing quarterback yet, meaning he should be utilizing his legs more. Tate did hurt his ankle in the loss to Houston which could have affected his mobility. However, moving forward he needs to be running the ball a lot more. Since Tate became the starter, when he has run the ball well Arizona wins, when he doesn’t run the ball well Arizona loses. Following that formula could help in the Arizona Wildcats turning their season around.
Should Arizona Fans be Panicking?
As a die-hard Arizona fan myself, it has been hard to watch how the first two games of the season have unfolded. This is not how any Arizona Wildcats fan wanted the season to begin, but it is not time to panic. The first two games do not indicate how a season will finish, and it definitely does not indicate what a coach’s tenure will look like. This team is young and has talented players on the roster that have contributed before. The more Kevin Sumlin figures out how to utilize them, the better this team will become. The New Era as it’s been called in Tucson may not have started great, but that doesn’t mean it can’t finish great. To all the Arizona fans, do not panic just yet.