Gardena (Calif.) Serra four-star athlete Khalil Tate has proven to be one of the toughest high school players in Southern California to tackle this season.
The senior quarterback for the talent-rich Cavaliers, Tate has repeatedly showed a Houdini ability to escape defenders, particularly those attempting to rush him in the backfield. He has thrown for 1,658 yards on 102-for-179 (57.0 percent) passing. He has 13 touchdowns to six interceptions.
However, it has been on the ground where Tate has been deadly. He has run for more than 100 yards in his last eight games, averaging 192.2 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns during that stretch.
Because of Tate’s ability to make defenders miss and make plays with his feet, his position at the collegiate level has been in the air. Tate doesn’t have the prototypical patience in the pocket, but he doesn’t necessarily take off running at the first sign of any pressure. Tate often backpedals or reverse pivots away from danger in order to look downfield for a receiver before eventually trying to use his legs to pick up yards.
Tate considers himself a quarterback first. That’s why the 6-foot, 210-pounder committed to Arizona during the spring.
“One of the reasons I committed to them is because a lot of colleges wanted me at different positions and I wasn't really having it,” Tate said. “I feel like I'm a pretty good quarterback. I feel like I can always get better, but Arizona wanted me as a quarterback, so I automatically said, 'Yea. Of course I'll do it.’”
USC has been one of those schools that loves Tate’s athleticism, but doesn’t see his best fit being at quarterback. The Trojans, with their pipeline to Serra High School, have been linked with Tate for a long time and they are still trying to talk to him.
Tate said he doesn’t have the Twitter app on his phone, so he isn’t on the social media service often, but when he does, USC is one of the schools trying to contact him, including interim head coach Clay Helton.
The No. 295 overall player in the country and No. 10 athlete in the West region had planned to attend the USC/Arizona game over the weekend, but was battling the flu and was unable to attend. However, he says his desire is to play for the Arizona coaching staff. For USC to sway Tate, it would take drastic measures.
“If the whole coaching staff from Arizona went to USC, that would probably be one of the only ways,” Tate said. “At this point, I've been committed so long, I'm not the type of person to de-commit and then... I'm real loyal to my choice, so whatever I go with I usually stick with. So that's probably going to happen.”
One thing that could change his mind, Tate admitted, was if Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez leaves to pursue another coaching opportunity elsewhere. Tate said he would then have to evaluate based on which of the Wildcats’ coaches Rodriguez took with him.
“I asked coach Tony Dews, my recruiting coach, how everything is going. He said the same thing happened last year. I think [Rodriguez] was supposed to get a job at Louisville or something and he didn't end up going, but [Dews] said he'll just keep up with me, keep in touch. Probably wherever they go, I'll probably end up going. But they'll probably have to go as a whole staff.”
Unlike when he is keying in on a defensive end while running his favorite play, the read option, what troubles Tate about USC is that he doesn’t have a good read about who the head coach is going to be next year.
“You don't know what's happening. They don't have a head coach. That's really like the main reason kids commit to a certain college is the head coach that they're familiar with,” Tate said. “But right now, they don't know who it's going to be. It's like what can I do? I already committed to Arizona, so it's not like I'm not committed and I'm waiting.”
Tate plans to be an early enrollee, saying he finished his classes two months ago, so the time is running thin for the Trojans to make a move that might give Tate another option to seriously consider.