With Arizona facing numerous injuries at the quarterback position, freshman Khalil Tate was turned to in the Wildcat’s loss to UCLA and, as co-offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach Rod Smith describes, the freshman’s performance was everything the coaching staff had hoped for and more.
“I think he did really well for his first college game,” Smith said. “He showed us a lot of things. Anytime you have a freshman go out there and do what he did, it’s special. He hadn’t been as clean as the other guys in practice at times, but he showed well out there.
“You see the talent with someone like him, it’s there and everybody sees that. It doesn’t take a whole lot of coach’s eye to see he’s a special player.
"He’s a very talented kid, but he’s got to be able to do the little things for his play to work within the scheme that we run. He did that on Saturday and it’s very pleasing to see a kid like that really turn it on come game time.”
At just 17 years-old, Tate imposes raw talent that arguably no other quarterback possesses on Arizona’s roster. The freshman used his athleticism to make dual-threat plays on and off the ground, which makes the freshman special in Smith’s eyes.
“It’s amazing, it really is,” Smith said. “The kid is 17 years old, but he’s built like a man. What I like about him is that he doesn’t think or act like a 17 year-old kid.
"He’s not phased in this environment, which is great from a football standpoint. Most young kids get wide eyed out there and he didn’t at all. He was very pleasing for us."
Arizona wants to be careful as to not limit Tate's talents.
“There’s a fine line with a player like him," Smith said. "You don’t want to harness a kid that’s used to making plays. There’s an element there that you just can’t teach. You can try, but you just can’t teach it. At the same time, he’s got to understand the structure of our offense.
“Going through these progressions and structures early on make things easier when they break down on the field but when he’s out there, it’s between him and the good lord with the skills he’s been blessed with.”
Smith plans to incorporate more of Tate’s play moving forward.
“He doesn’t want to redshirt,” Smith said. “He wants to be out there. I’ve told him all along that you’ll play when you’re ready and if he’s not ready I’m not going to put him out there and waste that redshirt.
"Our coaches don’t want to burn it just to get the kid a couple stats. We want to make sure he’s ready.
“Saturday was an emergency situation and at that point Khalil has got to play. If he can help us win and we think he can go out there and make plays, we’re running him in that situation and he’s got a bright future moving forward.”