Utah returns to Rice-Eccles Stadium this Saturday to take on Arizona in a key Pac-12 South matchup. UteZone caught up with Arizona insider Jason Scheer to get his take on the Wildcats.
It sounds like Khalil Tate is expected to make his first career start on the road against the Utes this Saturday. What does the true freshman bring to the table as a QB and how will he handle the pressures of making his first start on the road?
In terms of pressure, he was just fine when he entered the game against UCLA. Tate went to one of the best schools in the country and isn't the type of personality to get rattled. Maybe that changes if he gets hit in the pocket a little bit more, but his demeanor was extremely impressive against UCLA.
As far as what he brings to the table, we aren't completely sure. He can definitely run and does so with authority. In fact, he may need to learn to get out of bounds instead of lowering his shoulder like he did against UCLA. He is extremely mobile and has deceptive speed. Tate is also a pretty good thrower, but his decision making could use some work. He had some throws against UCLA that could have easily been picked off. The biggest reason why it took so long for him to start is because he was a bit inconsistent in showing what he knew in Arizona's offense.
Arizona seems to have been snakebitten by injuries this year. Who is expected to miss this week's game and what can we expect from their replacements?
At this point, the better question may be, who is going to play? Arizona is likely going to be without Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins, Nick Wilson, Freddie Tagaloa, and DeAndre Miller, Parker Zellers, and numerous others. At one point, Arizona was down to its fourth running back and three second or third string offensive lineman. The replacements on the line aren't bad, but without Wilson and J.J. Taylor, the only running attack Arizona has had has come from the quarterback.
In addition to Tate, who are the playmakers on the Arizona offense that Ute fans should be aware of? Additionally, how will the scheme change with Tate at the helm of the offense?
There's no real scheme change. Anu Solomon wasn't as much of a runner as these guys, so you will likely see more option and designed quarterback draws, but the plays are generally the same.
Wide receiver Shun Brown leads Arizona in receiving and has the capability of putting together a good game. Trey Griffey tends to do well in man coverage and has drawn numerous pass interference penalties. One player to watch out for is Cam Denson. Rodriguez implied the receiver will see more snaps this week and while he struggles with consistency, Denson has big play potential.
The Wildcat defense looks like it's struggled so far in Pac-12 play, giving up 35 points to Washington and 42 to UCLA. How does the defense match up with Utah and what do you expect to see out of them this week? Who are the impact players Utah must account for?
The defense is another unit that is struggling with injuries and throw that in with being undersized and learning a new scheme and things can get messy. The defense has played better as of late and wasn't terrible against UCLA. It did well against the run and suffered a bit by field position and awful special teams.
You can expect Arizona to run blitz quite a bit and likely attack from angles in order to try to offset the size difference. Safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles might be the best player on defense right now and has the look of a future all-conference player. Michael Barton and Cody Ippolito have been solid at linebacker and Tellas Jones has been impressive roaming the field as well.
What is your prediction for the game, including the score?
If Arizona had a running back, I would pick the Wildcats to win. For some reason, Arizona's scheme tends to work against Utah. The problem is that it usually revolves around a big rushing performance and Arizona doesn't have a running back that can put that together. It wouldn't surprise me if the game is close, but Utah eventually pulls away. Utah 38, Arizona 27