Kevin Sumlin just finished up a disappointing first season as the University of Arizona football coach. To make matters worse, there is talk of another quarterback transferring away from a team he has coached. This time it is preseason Heisman contender Khalil Tate. Sources close to the Arizona football program believe that Tate will transfer once he graduates in the spring. To fuel the transfer rumors, Tate responded with, “Next question” when asked about his future at Arizona after their loss to Arizona State. If Tate were to transfer, that would be the third high profile quarterback to transfer from a Kevin Sumlin coached team. Under Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Tate hardly looked like the breakout player we saw in 2017. While a nagging ankle injury certainly impeded his ability to run, some blame definitely falls on the coaching staff for not utilizing Tate more.
What Went Wrong?
After watching every Arizona game this season, it was apparent that there was a clear disconnect between Tate and Noel Mazzone. Coming into the season, there were hopes that Tate could be like Johnny Manziel during Kevin Sumlin’s first season at Texas A&M. However, in the first game against BYU, Tate only rushed the ball eight times for 14 yards while he instead threw the ball 34 times and only completed 17 passes. Arizona lost the game 28-23. This was before his ankle injury, which came against Houston the following weekend. This trend continued throughout the season and it seemed that Tate never fit well with the RPO offense of Noel Mazzone. To put things in perspective, Tate rushed for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns for the entire 2018 season, which was less yards and TDs than he amassed in just the Colorado game in 2017.
Where would Khalil Tate go?
While nothing is finalized yet, if Tate does decided to transfer he would have plenty of suitors. There are not many times where a preseason Heisman contender suddenly decides to transfer. An interesting team to keep an eye on as a potential destination would be Illinois. Rod Smith is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Illinois. He was also a long time Rich Rodriguez assistant and he was partially responsible for Tate’s breakout season at Arizona in 2017. Even if Tate does not decide to go to Illinois, there will be plenty of coaches and schools lining up for his services.
What about Arizona?
As for Arizona, it would undoubtedly be a blow to lose Khalil Tate. His talent level is something that not many quarterbacks possess. However, Arizona currently has a commitment from quarterback Grant Gunnell who holds the records for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in the state of Texas. Gunnell seems to be a better fit for Noel Mazzone’s offense based on his ability as a natural pocket passer. Sumlin and Mazzone may want to start fresh with their own recruit, and move on from Khalil Tate.