TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Wildcats' offense will look different this season. It'll still operate at a hectic pace. Khalil Tate still will be at the helm. But he'll be passing more, and passing more from the pocket.
Which doesn't mean Kevin Sumlin and Noel Mazzone want Tate to change who he is, as a player or leader.
"There's a lot of things going on for a quarterback in this system," Sumlin said after practice Wednesday night. "But in the end, you've gotta be you.
"When adversity hits and there's some sort of crisis, guess what? The real you is coming out. If people hadn't seen that before, it creates panic. He's doing a good job with that."
Coaches and players have noted the strides Tate has made as a leader entering his junior season, which officially begins a week from Saturday against BYU. Mazzone, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, has noted Tate's improvement in reading defenses and going through progressions.
But Mazzone doesn't want to turn a player who might be the best running quarterback in the country into purely a pocket passer.
"When he stays in his progression, he's been awesome," Mazzone said. "But there's that fine line. Sometimes he gets out of it and goes and does a little street stuff and just makes plays. I don't want to coach that out of him. I still want that part. But at times I want him to stay within the boundaries of the offense."
Sumlin reiterated Wednesday that he and Mazzone will mold their offense to the quarterback's strengths. "It's not a cookie-cutter deal," Sumlin said.
But there are certain attributes that he looks for in all his quarterbacks.
"He's gotta understand situational football," Sumlin said. "He's gotta be accurate when he throws it. And then, he's gotta have some leadership skills and not let things affect him -- not get too high when things are going great and, when things aren't looking great, he's gotta maintain that.
"No matter what, when you touch the ball every snap, people are looking at you as a leader. You've gotta accept that."
Sumlin said four quarterbacks vying to be Tate's backup are still rotating through drills: second-year players K'Hari Lane and Rhett Rodriguez, and freshmen Kevin Doyle and Jamarye Joiner.
Sumlin said Lane and Rodriguez are "a little bit ahead" because of their experience. But Sumlin said Doyle and Joiner aren't "out of the mix either," especially with the new redshirt rule, which enables players to participate in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.
Next week, Sumlin said, he and Mazzone will decide who will go into the game should something happen to Tate.
Tate was named a second-team preseason All-American by The Athletic. The website placed five Pac-12 players on its first team: tailback Bryce Love (Stanford), receiver N'Keal Harry (Arizona State), guard Nate Herbig (Stanford), kicker Matt Gay (Utah) and punter Mitch Wishnowsky (Utah). Defensive tackle Ed Oliver of Houston, which hosts Arizona in Week 2, also made the first team.
This article is written by Michael Lev from The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.