Editor's note: This commentary was produced as part of the Daily Wildcat's 2018 Campus Guide -- the perfect resource for any incoming Wildcat. Whether you're trying to find important dates, looking for a club to join or are interested in UA history and traditions, we'll be there to help you get through your first semester. Welcome to the University of Arizona!
Big Man on Campus
Khalil Tate – Football
Nobody will attract more attention in the fall than Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate. The 2017 Maxwell Award semifinalist didn’t take the reins as Arizona’s starting quarterback until the fifth game of the season. As a true sophomore, he compiled 1,648 rushing yards and 1,834 passing yards. He also scored 26 touchdowns in 2017 and set a handful of program records.
Despite initially having trouble cracking the starting lineup, Tate quickly proved to his doubters that he’s the best man for the job. With a new coach heading into the 2018 season, Tate and Wildcat fans have every reason to be excited. With an up-tempo offense designed around Tate’s big-play instincts, it will be hard to eliminate Arizona from Pac-12 contention.
Since Tate’s record-setting, off-the-bench performance versus Colorado last season, the electric dual-threat has garnered his fair share of Heisman Trophy support. Although he slipped out of the conversation for the nation’s top award near the tail end of 2017, there’s no telling how high Tate can climb in his first full year as starting quarterback.
Related : Arizona Athletics Fall 2018 From A-Z
Scooby Wright 2.0?
Colin Schooler – Football
The comparisons between Scooby Wright and Colin Schooler don’t stop at undersized and under-recruited. Wright, who became Arizona’s sixth unanimous All-American in the wake of his 2014 campaign, first made his mark as a wide-eyed freshman. After earning All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors, and dazzling fans with sideline interceptions, Wright completed perhaps the greatest sophomore season in program history.
Now it’s Schooler’s turn to post an equally incredible second act, or at least try to. In 2017, the 6-foot, 226 lb. inside linebacker surpassed many of Wright’s freshman accolades. In fact, Schooler snatched the one piece of hardware missing from Wright’s trophy case – Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.
With cat-like reflexes and high-level play recognition, Schooler is primed to lead Arizona’s defense into the new era. As a freshman, he excelled at beating blockers to the point of attack and playing in the opposition’s backfield.
As a sophomore, Schooler will look to utilize his experience and increased attributes to his advantage. Spending his first full offseason under the watchful eyes of Arizona’s strength and conditioning coaches will certainly reap rewards. Schooler’s stature might not be intimidating, but the hammer he wields between tackles makes up for any shortcomings.
The Winnipeg Jet
Jennie Baragar-Petrash – Cross Country
Jennie Baragar-Petrash calls Winnipeg, Canada home, but every fall she grows fonder of the desert. In 2016, Baragar-Petrash was one of Arizona XC’s bright spots. She shined for the Wildcats, competing in six events and finishing top-five amongst her teammates in each one.
Baragar-Petrash wasn’t just ahead of the sport's other top freshman in 2016, she was also holding her own against the rest of the pack, finishing top-10 twice. As a sophomore, Baragar-Petrash continued to improve her marks. A fourth place finish at the Dave Murray Invitational and a top-30 placing at the NCAA Division I West Region Cross Country Championships highlighted her 2017 campaign.
Although Baragar-Petrash trailed seniors Claire Green and Addi Zerrenner in the 6,000 meter event, she still managed to shave more than a minute off her freshman personal record. Baragar-Petrash progressed leaps and bounds between her freshman and sophomore seasons.
Now, fully equipped to handle the pressures of being an upperclassman, Baragar-Petrash will take aim at All-American status. Baragar-Petrash has recently been excelling, posting top-five finishes in six outings from March 17 through April 28.
The Tasmanian Davila
Hunter Davila – Cross Country
Hunter Davila is a soon-to-be senior and over the last three years he has blossomed into a formidable force in the cross country realm.
In 2017, Davila got off to a sizzling start, achieving first place in the 6k at the Dave Murray Invitational. In October 2017, Davila competed at the adidas DI Pre-Nationals. He struggled to maintain a similar pace throughout the rest of the season, but, in doing so, demonstrated a resiliency to never give up.
Davila kicked off his participation in track and field’s 2018 outdoor season at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational in January, submitting a time of 8:34.93 in the 3000 meter race, earning an eighth place finish. Over the next several months, Davila balanced out several poor results with a pair of first-place finishes.
Heading into the final stages of his XC career, teammates and coaches alike expect Davila to finish strong. Fine-tuning his racing mechanics and working hard to increase his durability have been Davila’s primary points of focus over the summer. He is expected to lead the way for the men’s team in 2018.
Morgan McGarry – Soccer
Some athletes fold when they’re challenged to compete outside their comfort zone. That’s not what happened with Arizona redshirt junior midfielder Morgan McGarry when coaches moved her to the backline.
McGarry transitioned to a defensive role in 2017 after playing sparingly the season prior. Although she was a highly touted player at the prep level, an ACL injury during her senior year prevented her from making an immediate impact for the Wildcats. After redshirting in 2015, McGarry made just four appearances in 2016.
In the offseason, coaches configured a lineup that featured McGarry in a new role — one that would hopefully better suit her. Rather than pouting over a position change, McGarry took advantage of the fresh start. Her performance on the field noticeably improved. She started and played every match, compiling 1,892 minutes along Arizona’s backline.
Her consistency on the field and willingness to compete at a new position was rewarded at the conclusion of the season. McGarry was named to the 2017 All-Pac-12 Second Team and earned 2017 Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention honors.
Follow Rob Kleifield on Twitter