Bonney's Take :
With the Wildcat offense struggling to produce at expected Pac-10 levels this season, the Willie Tuitama/Richard Kovalcheck debate has started in force. Should Tuitama play or should the coaches stick with Kovalcheck and save the young freshman's red shirt? My opinion on this issue is both simple and complex.
Simply put, Willie needs to see the field starting this week against Oregon. After speaking to members of the coaching staff I was still torn on whether or not Tuitama should play. But after spending a good 45 minutes talking to Willie's father, Lui Tuitama, I came to the conclusion that it is time for Willie to play. But, even though I feel that the young gun should play, I believe that he should get his time, at least this coming week, by coming off the bench in a back up role.
There are many reasons to have Tuitama come off the bench rather than starting. First and foremost is the pressure will be lighter if he were to come off the bench. I have zero doubt that the young quarterback could shoulder the pressure of starting this week, but he shouldn't HAVE to. We would be throwing him in the fire anyways so it would be wise to take as much pressure off of him as we could.
Secondly, Richard Kovalcheck, no matter how poorly he has played in two out of the last three games, has earned the start against Oregon. This reason may not, in fact will not, sit well with many people reading this but I really believe what Mike Stoops said. Arizona is not 1-5 because of Richard Kovalcheck alone. He has made mistakes, that much is clear, but for the whole lot of blame to fall on his shoulders just isn't right.
Lastly, we need to use the last five games of the year as the quarterback competition for next year. Both young men need to see the field and need to show what they can do with the talent around them. Richard is who the entire offense is familiar with and believe it or not he still does bring some things to the table, most notably experience.
If I was Coach Stops or Coach Canales, I would…
…do what Louisville did last season. If anyone knows what they did and how it worked it should be the Arizona coaches. They spent a good amount of time trading ideas with the Bobby Petrino staff at Louisville. While Petrino was preparing a freshman to take over for an outgoing senior the method and model is still sound for Arizona's situation. The Wildcats are 1-5 with an extremely outside shot at a bowl game (they would need to win out to go.). I would set up a rotation like Louisville did and I would have the experienced guy start each game and the younger inexperienced player come off the bench.
I would go with Kovalcheck to start and for the first quarter. The second quarter would be Tuitama's and the third would be Kovalcheck's again. The fourth quarter would go to whoever had the hotter hand throughout the game and it would be a gut decision many times. This rotation would give both guys ample time, it would keep Kovalcheck fully involved in the offense and would give Tuitama enough time and opportunity to gain valuable experience. It may not be perfect but it could work. In the end, Willie deserves his shot and Richard has earned another.
To be honest I am real torn on this one. In a perfect world the Cats would be 2-3 or 3-2 and we'd be wondering just how good Richard Kovalecheck could be down the line. Instead we are debating whether or not to play true freshman Willie Tuitama.
A week ago I was dead set against pulling his redshirt and playing him this season. Now I am leaning towards playing him this weekend.
I need to state that I don't think Kovalcheck has been terrible. The Cal and Stanford games were poor performances, but he looked solid the rest of the season. A lot of the Wildcats' offensive woes are not Kovalcheck's fault. Kovalcheck has not dropped a single pass. Kovalcheck did not tell B. J. Vickers to attend L.A. Trade Tech. It was not Kovalcheck who cause the running backs to fumble against Utah and Stanford.
That being said, Kovalcheck has thrown bad interceptions. He has missed receivers and not always called the right audibles. He has not been able to make the big plays when the team needs it.
Now onto Tuitama. Like most fans I am hesitant to pull a redshirt midway through the year, especially since a bowl bid is remote at best. However, the team (and the program) does need a spark and there are no other players redshirting who can provide that kind of jolt.
If Tuitama is indeed ready to play, then he should. As of now it does seem like he can at least contribute. He has the best arm and has been impressive against the first team defense while running the scout team offense.
At first I did not like the idea of having a fifth-year senior Willie Tuitama, but three and a half years is not bad. How many teams get that long with a starter?
The best thing is that it now creates controversy. Kovalcheck has basically had the job since he threw that fourth quarter touchdown pass to Brad Wood last year against Oregon. Kris Heavner really never had another chance to win back the job. All Kovalcheck had to do to keep the job this year is to fend off a small push from former walk-on Adam Austin. Austin showed flashes of talent, but never really showed that he could contend for the job.
I don't have any evidence that Kovalcheck is resting on his laurels, but now he is in for a fight. The best case scenario is that Tuitama forces Kovalcheck to have his best week of practice, earn the start and lead the Cats to an early 21-0 lead and any thoughts of playing the youngster will vanish.
More than likely you'll see Kovalcheck start and Tuitama come in some time in the second quarter. Each guy will have a chance to show what he can do and then at the end of the game the best guy will take over.
The move will allow Tuitama to provide a spark to a team that needs a boost. It will give him a chance to get used to the speed of the college game. It will also light a fire under Kovalcheck and begin the quarterback battle BEFORE the spring.
You can't forget the other benefits that the move will have. It will get Tucson talking about football again. The Tuitama topic has pushed basketball off the front page and off of the lips of the radio call-in shows.
It is also a good recruiting move. It gives quarterback prospects out there an extra year of separation. Any freshman who comes in now will have two years separation from Tuitama. The program needs momentum as well. They need a couple of wins to get the momentum back and that will help recruiting. If Tuitama can help you win, I say you play him.