Much of the talk about Arizona during Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day surrounded the quarterback situation.
Although some may not believe it, Rich Rodriguez is adamant that quarterback is an open competition.
“We have in my opinion two returning starters,” he said. “One that's more established in Anu Solomon, really good player, particularly when he's healthy. Last year he had some injuries, but he's got a challenge with Brandon Dawkins, who played a little bit at the end of the year and has gotten better.
“I think we're in a good situation where we have two guys competing for the starting job. We've got a young guy in Khalil Tate who's got on outstanding future, we think, and we're recruiting well at that position.
“Solomon, Dawkins will go into camp splitting first-team reps, and we'll see who wins the job. I hope both of them prove that we can win with them and we'll play both of them throughout the year.”
In order for Solomon to be the starting quarterback for the third year in a row, he has to reach a certain level of consistency.
“The next step for Anu is simply be more consistent,” Rodriguez said. “Certainly health is an issue with that, but there are so many more things that we can do in our offense if the quarterback can handle it mentally, and he can handle a lot mentally, and we're going to put more on him.
“Now, we're still going to call the plays just because I've always said we watch more film as coaches than the players do. They might be watching Sponge Bob Square Pants or something, I don't know, on Saturday mornings.
‘Anu is a more competitive guy than sometimes he lets on. He's calm and you look at him, it doesn't look like he gets that excited, but he does. So it's important to him, but we're going to push him and have pushed him since the spring to take his game to another level, and I think he'll do that.”
It may seem like freshman Khalil Tate is going to be the odd man out, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
“I wouldn't assume anything,” Rodriguez said. “He's definitely behind the other guys, which you'd expect, but it depends how quickly he learns.”
Arizona will give Tate plenty of opportunity to show what he can do during camp.
“He's such a talented runner,” Rodriguez said. “He’s not fast, but he's big and he's strong and he's elusive. I think we'll probably -- whoever the best quarterback is will play, and whatever they do the best, whether it's throw, run, a little bit of both, that's what we'll call when they're in there.
“Basically in the spring we just wanted Khalil to learn the base offense, and he got a little bit of that. I don't know how much he's progressed since then because we don't have as much contact with him in the summer, but in August camp he's going to get reps.
“It's not like we're going to say, Khalil, go to the scout team, redshirt. He's going to get reps, but he'll get reps after Brandon and Anu does.”
Tate’s physical tools aren’t a concern, as it is simply getting the mental part of the game to where the coaching staff wants it.
“He can throw it about 80 yards and he can run well, but we've got to make sure he's running in the right direction and throwing to our guys,” Rodriguez said. “When he does that, he's going to be okay.
“When you watch the guys from high school, a lot of times it's the same system, sometimes it's a different system. We just see more than anything is he a good guy, is he eager to learn, and what kind of work ethic does he have, does he love football, not like it.
“I've always said our biggest challenge is to find talented guys that love football, not like it, and he's a guy that loves football, and talking to his coach they said he loves football. If you have that, then you've got a chance.”