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A new Tate of mind

Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Running Back J.J. Taylor (21) runs to grab the ball from quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the game against ASU on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Arizona Stadium.

This time last year, expectations were high for Arizona football. The Wildcats were bringing in first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin, and returning quarterback Khalil Tate was getting an incredible amount of support in the national media as somebody who could be a Heisman candidate. 

It was easy to see why. Tate electrified and dazzled fans coming into a game in week 6 of 2017 and generating 3,000 yards of total offense as a dual-threat quarterback that season. Then, when you look at Sumlin’s work with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Tate and Sumlin seemed like an ideal pairing set to take over the nation. 

However, the script went awry, and Arizona struggled – including Tate. The junior dealt with an ankle injury that hampered his ability to create offense with his legs, taking one of his biggest strengths away on the football field. This spring, the now-senior quarterback feels back to normal and hopes to make that ankle injury him a thing of the past.  

Khalil Tate (14) throws his hand up in the air after completing another day of practice during spring training. 

“It’s all about confidence,” Tate said. “When you’re injured it sets you back a little bit as an athlete. You’re moving around so much, and if you get injured, it’s like, what do you do now? So I think it helps mentally, and being a leader it helps also.” 

Tate also mentioned he hopes the injury he battled last season well help make him a better quarterback this season. 

“I think it helps a lot that I got injured, because I learned a lot mentally and I got stronger,” Tate said. 

Tate claimed to have the right mindset coming in this spring, planning to attack every day with a goal to get better and hoping it translates on the field in 2019. 

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“Win every single game, but that comes with winning every single day, so it starts in spring and I think we are doing a great job in doing the little minor details because last season we missed a lot of the little minor details and that really affected us,” Tate said.

Whether or not Tate’s goal holds true remains to be seen, but Sumlin notices a more comfortable QB1 heading into year two of the Sumlin/Tate team-up.

“He looks a little bit more comfortable because he’s healthy,” Sumlin said of Tate. 

Despite notions the starting quarterback gig is Tate’s to lose, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone comes into spring with an attitude of competition, stating everyone will have to earn their right as a starter. But that doesn’t seem to bother Tate. 

“It’s all about competition. Nobody lives on this planet by themselves. There are people in this world you have to compete with. Even with life, you have to compete with them in order to get better, so I think it helps a lot,” Tate said. 

Quarterback Khalil Tate (14) passes the ball during the homecoming game against Oregon on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Arizona Stadium. Oregon was upset by Arizona with a final score of 44-15.

With Tate and Mazzone entering their second year together, the two ideally will be more comfortable with one another and know what to expect. 

“I think it was a whole new offense for [Tate], and he was a new player for me,” Mazzone explained. “So we kind of went through our growing pains, and I think I can understand him a little bit more and he understands me a little bit more and what we are both expecting out of each other.”

Tate did consider on entering his name in the NFL Draft during the offseason, but said he knew he had unfinished business at Arizona.

“I knew I had a lot more to prove," Tate said. "I knew I left a lot on the table, and I know what my ceiling is and what I can do, and with the circumstances that I was dealt last year, I couldn’t perform to the best of my abilities and show the next level." 

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