If Rich Rodriguez had his way, Arizona would have five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at once.
The way this season is going, even that may not be enough.
“Most teams carry four, I usually like to have five,” Rodriguez said. “We will have at least five in the next several years, and we will be good there. We have some good guys coming back and we recruited some very talented ones.”
One of those talented players is freshman quarterback Khalil Tate. It’s no secret that Arizona wanted to redshirt Tate, but injuries left Arizona with no other choice.
“We would have liked to redshirt Khalil Tate,” Rodriguez said. “He would have been perfect, a 17-year old kid fresh out of high school.”
Like any other freshman, Tate was called on to play because the coaching staff felt he could help the Wildcats win.
“If you’re good enough to win with, and we need you to win, you’re going to play,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what I tell all of them when we’re recruiting. We don’t ever guarantee a guy that he’s going to start, because that’s not fair to them or the guys on the team.
“We also don’t recruit guys to be backups. Anybody we recruit, we recruit with the expectation of him helping the team win as soon as he gets here.
“Inevitably, half the freshman or more are not ready physically or mentally to play at the highest level yet, but some are, and some are forced to grow up in a hurry.”
Burning Tate’s redshirt may not have been in the cards, but it also wasn’t something Arizona was completely unprepared for.
“You have to prepare for that ahead of time,” Rodriguez said. “ What happens if Brandon [Dawkins] gets hurt? Zach [Werlinger] is the next guy, but Khalil is a little more explosive.
“When Anu [Solomon] got hurt a few weeks ago, Brandon was taking all of the reps with the ones. We take an equal number of reps with the twos, and Zach and Khalil split those.
“With that in mind, we thought if we have to play him, we will burn the redshirt and get him ready to play. We were hoping that we wouldn’t have to, but we did, so we’ll move on.”
Once Tate finally got into the game, he actually performed better than he has been at practice.
“I don’t want to say it was a pleasant surprise, because when you recruit a guy, you see him play,” Rodriguez said.
“I always say if you want to find a guy that is going to be a really good player in college, find a guy that is a really good player in high school. He was a really good player in high school. He was more composed in the game than he was in practice, so that was pleasant.
“Sometimes guys get in their first action and the lights are too bright, but he was spot on. Even when he made a wrong read, he knew right away. That part of it was very encouraging.”