Who should take over under center for Arizona football?
Arizona football currently sits at 4-4 on the season. Sports editors and writers Jack Cooper, Amit Syal, Austin Wales, Dan Philipsborn and Jacob Mennuti discuss the quarterback controversy between senior Khalil Tate and true freshman Grant Gunnell.
Before the season started, I was really excited about seeing Khalil Tate 100 percent healthy and getting back to the quarterback he was in 2017. So far, we’ve only seen glimpses of that. After the last three games, I think it’s time to move forward with Grant Gunnell.
Gunnell is a quarterback that Head Coach Kevin Sumlin recruited and fits his playstyle more, while Tate is still from Rich Rodriguez’s era. Don’t get me wrong, Tate is still one of the best quarterbacks in the conference and probably the best athlete on the field when healthy. However, teams have figured out how to control his running ability, and he’s only been a sub-par passer. Gunnell, on the other hand, has the potential to be one of the best passing quarterbacks that Arizona has ever seen.
With his redshirt already gone, I think it’s best for him to become Arizona’s full-time starter. We’ve already seen what Gunnell can do, including beating UCLA with Tate out, and then just this past weekend against Stanford, he went 7-7 for 68 yards and a touchdown.
I’m not opposed to using the two quarterback system that Sumlin used this past weekend, but the thing I don’t like about that system is if Sumlin is switching them every couple drives, they can’t get a rhythm going and feel comfortable. People keep saying Gunnell is the future and that they can’t wait for him to start, but I think that time is now.
It is no secret that Arizona football (4-4) has had a rocky past month, dropping games to Washington, USC and Stanford all in three consecutive weeks. A big factor behind Arizona’s difficulties on the field can be attributed to an apparent quarterback controversy. As much as Head Coach Sumlin disagrees, there is clearly an issue here. True freshman Gunnell has played a lot more consistent than senior quarterback Tate in all aspects of their position.
After Tate threw for a total of 47 yards and ran for negative 27 yards on the road against the USC Trojans, Gunnell stepped up and made some magic happen in the little time he had left, even though it was too little too late. Tate played better on the road against Stanford, but it wasn’t enough to secure the team’s fifth victory of the year.
With the do-or-die spot the Wildcats are in now, Sumlin needs to decide who to start at quarterback and stick with it for the rest of the season. I think that Gunnell needs to be Sumlin’s guy for the remaining four games of the season if the team wants to win at least two more games and stay at .500 on the 2019 season. It’d be a huge disappointment to the program to miss a bowl game after its impressive start to the season.
Coming into this season, Arizona’s quarterback situation didn’t seem to be that much of a problem, especially after how well Tate did last year, throwing the ball for over 2,500 yards. However, this season has been much different and we’ve seen true freshman Gunnell play in this Arizona offense that loves to throw the ball, and he has thrived. Gunnell, a pro-style quarterback, is perfect for this offense since he can throw the ball well and accurately, whereas Tate is more of an option-style quarterback who is able to run in open space well, like we saw against Texas Tech University.
Arizona went with the two-quarterback system against Stanford and, while it worked for the most part, there were still times where Arizona struggled. When Tate was in the game, they struggled throwing. When Gunnell was in the game, his youth showed as he forced a couple passes. Going forward, I believe that Arizona should continue to go with Gunnell since he fits perfectly into assistant coach Taylor Mazzone’s offense and is fit to lead Arizona for the next several years. As for Tate, his ability to take hits as well as throw the ball away has been nonexistent this year, and he has had several games where he has negative yards rushing, because he runs out of bounds instead of throwing it away. Gunnell, even though he’s a true freshman, seems to be the future for this Arizona program.
Why don’t we have both?
Arizona deployed a new form of offense last Saturday against Stanford that consisted of both Tate and Gunnell. Fans have been preaching for the team to choose between the two quarterbacks, but I think Sumlin should adopt the two-quarterback system and play both Tate and Gunnell for the remainder of the season.
Switching between two quarterbacks was a system that several teams like University of Alabama, Clemson University and University of Georgia thrived in last year. Sure, those three teams possess rosters that are significantly more talented than Arizona, giving them more room for error, but the Wildcats do have one thing that is similar to those teams: two efficient quarterbacks that bring a different set of skills to the offense.
Tate is the most explosive quarterback in the conference when he’s at the top of his game. He can make the opponents’ heads spin with his running ability and deep ball accuracy, while Gunnell brings a steady mindset to the offense with his poise and confidence to throw the ball. Matching up against two completely different quarterbacks can create a nightmare scenario for opposing teams to plan for. Tate and Gunnell both bring something unique to this team, and I think it would be foolish not to use them both going forward.
A platoon system seems to be head coach Sumlin’s experimental solution for the quarterback situation. I am not a proponent of alternating players at the most important position on the field. It is difficult for a quarterback to lead a team and develop rhythm when they are not playing every down.
I believe the answer is simple — start Gunnell.
Gunnell has shown flashes of excellence in his small sample of play, enough that proves he is competent enough to be the starter going forward. The team seems to rally around Gunnell and plays with a spark that Tate hasn’t brought since he broke onto the scene in 2017. If the season will ultimately be a mediocre one at best for the Wildcats, it only makes perfect sense for Sumlin to give the quarterback of the future the experience he needs so the team can fully compete next season.
Gunnell will make his fair share of mistakes, but the upside is he is developing into one of the best pocket passers in the country. As for Tate, he has been inconsistent throwing the ball and with decision making, which has translated into nothing but losses as of recent.
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