The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Arizona Wildcats.
No. 31: Arizona Wildcats
Spring Practice Starts: March 19
Spring Game: April 14
Arizona Wildcats Spring Status
Flashback to late October. Arizona destroyed Washington State to get to 6-2, was in the thick of the Pac-12 title chase, and had one of the nation’s hottest new superstars, QB Khalil Tate.
The Wildcats went on to lose four of their last five games – with the lone victory coming over a hapless Oregon State team – lost to Arizona State, and dropped a bowl game to an okay Purdue team.
And then came the Rich Rodriguez issues right as the #MeToo movement was kicking in full force.
However, it all might have been a step back to take a giant leap forward if Kevin Sumlin really is that good. His style didn’t work in the SEC, but now that he’s in a more offense-friendly league – his teams will put up points.
The Wildcats still have Tate to work around, and the backfield has dangerous options, even without Nick Wilson around. The offensive line is a concern – especially on the right side – but the receiving corps should be fine.
It’s a Kevin Sumlin team. The offense will be terrific.
The defense is the big question mark, even with eight starters back. All it has to do is hold serve, and this time around, Arizona might be right back in the thick of things just as November gets rolling.
Arizona Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Running back. Tate is the best rushing option, and J.J. Taylor is back after leading all running backs with 847 yards. Now the coaching staff has to find more options with Nick Wilson and Zach Green – who combined for over 900 yards and 17 touchdowns – done.
Sophomore Gary Brightwell is a bigger, slippery option who’ll get more of a chance, and junior Branden Leon is more of a pinball type like Taylor. Throw in big-time recruit Nathan Tilford, and it’s a great situation. All are quick, and all of them need to take the pressure off of Tate.
Arizona Biggest Issue
The defense has to get off the field. The secondary got bombed on throughout last season, and it all tied into the problems with first downs – the Wildcats gave up way too many of them. UCLA’s defense – as awful as it was – gave up 320 first downs, and Akron was dead last in the nation giving up 328. Arizona allowed 321.
Arizona Biggest Positive
Khalil Tate. The Wildcats have one of the nation’s best and most dynamic players, and as his season goes, so goes Sumlin’s inaugural campaign.
There’s enough across the roster for the new staff to work with to legitimately shoot to win the Pac-12 South, and if Tate is Tate again – after running for 1,411 yards and 12 scores, and throwing 14 touchdown passes in just 11 games – it could happen.
Really, Why Are The Arizona Wildcats Ranked Here?
This might just be the right fit head coach at the right time. However, defense was a problem for Sumlin at Texas A&M, and Arizona’s D needs a whole lot of work. There should be a little bit of tweaking to the offense to add more of a passing game, but Tate is going to be Tate, and the offense will carry the way to a bowl game and a winning season.