Click here for updates on the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation at the University of Arizona

Analysis: Five athletes to watch for in Fall 2019

Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Quarterback Khalil Tate (14) hands the ball over to running back JJ Taylor (21) during the homecoming game against Oregon on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Arizona Stadium.

As a new season of Arizona sports approaches, many UA athletes will put their talents on display. But which ones will be at the forefront of helping their team win? We've identified five athletes whose performances will be under the microscope in fall 2019:

Khalil Tate (senior) – football quarterback: 

Coming off a breakout season for Tate in 2017, when he threw for over 1,500 yards and ran for another 1,400, expectations were high for Arizona football going into last season. With new head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone coming to Tucson from Texas A&M, the team was expected to have one of the most explosive offenses in the country. However, lower leg injuries suffered by Tate early in the season kept him in the pocket most of the season, which had a disastrous effect on the whole offense. He was not able to use his speed to open up the field, which led to a down year for the Wildcats. 

So, in year three as the Wildcat starter, which Tate will we see this season? If the senior regains the footing he had, Arizona should have a winning season, but if it's more of the same from last fall, Tate's legacy will go down as a one-year wonder.

Photo by Beau Leone. Quarterback Khalil Tate (14) gets some passes up during spring practice inside the new Cole and Jeanie Davis Sports Center.

J.J. Taylor (junior) – football running back:

After seeing limited carries in his redshirt freshman season, Taylor erupted last season for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns on 255 carries. He also added 16 receptions for 133 yards as a receiver out of the backfield. Taylor was one of the shining stars in what was an overall down year for the Wildcats in 2018, as his 1,434 yards landed him seventh in the country in rushing yards among all collegiate running backs across the country.Tate and Taylor in the backfield is going to a tough duo for opponents to deal, with as the versatility and elusiveness they both possess is tough to defend against. 

Running back JJ Taylor rushes the ball during the game against ASU on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Arizona Stadium. Arizona lost the territorial cup game 41-40. 

Nico Mannion and Josh Green (freshmen) – men’s basketball guards:

Similarly to the football team last season, the basketball team also disappointed compared to expectations going into the season as they missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. With one of the country’s top recruiting classes heading into 2019, the basketball team will look to rebound and take back the Pac-12 conference championship, along with potentially another deep run in March Madness.

The incoming recruiting class is led by Mannion and Green, who both find themselves in the top 10 of ESPN’s 2019 top high-school recruits. 

Mannion, out of Pinnacle High School, is a 6-foot-3 point guard who averaged over 30 points per game his senior year, was named the top point guard in the country in for the 2019 class and won the award for high school athlete of the year, earning him McDonald’s All-American recognition. He'll come to town and immediately start for the Wildcats.

Green, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard out of Florida, attended IMG Academy. He is listed as a guard but can also play as a small forward. Green poured in 42 points in the final regular season game of his senior year last season before leading his team to the high school basketball championship, where they defeated La Lumiere by a score of 65-55, leading to Green being named MVP of the championship game. Green also played in the McDonald’s All-American game back in March, where he shot 4-9 from the field for 8 points and 5 rebounds over 14 minutes of playing time. 

Brandon Williams (sophomore) – men’s basketball guard

Williams came to Arizona last year as a top 40 recruit out of California. He started the majority of the season for the Wildcats but struggled to shoot with consistency, as he shot just over 31 percent from 3-point range. He’ll have a lot more to prove entering his sophomore season this year with the majority of the team from last season returning along with one of the country’s top recruiting class. Look for Williams to improve in his second season with Arizona, as the Wildcats try to redeem themselves after a tough 2018 season. 

Brandon Williams (2) looks to pass the ball to his teammates during the Arizona-USC game at the PAC-12 Men's Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas Nevada on Weds., March 13, 2019.

Aari McDonald (junior) – women’s basketball guard

The Wildcats women’s team defeated Northwestern in front of a sold out crowd at the McKale Center last April to take home the WNIT Championship. As they enter another season under head coach Adia Barnes, the hope is they can make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. 

Aari McDonald prepares an offensive drive agaisnt TCU in McKale Stadium. UA defeated TCU 59-53.

The team was led by McDonald, now a redshirt junior, who averaged over 24 points per game with six rebounds and four assists during the regular season. Across the six games won by the Wildcats in the WNIT, McDonald averaged 19 points per game along with seven rebounds and six assists. In the championship game, she went 8-17 from the field en route to a 19-point performance with seven rebounds and three assists. She is once again this season going to be one of the major keys if the Wildcats women’s basketball team wants to have another successful season. 

Follow Ari Koslow on Twitter

Share this article