We were lucky enough to ask Brian J. Pedersen of Arizona Desert Swarm some questions about the Wildcats! Here are his responses:
1. Do you think Tate should be benched for Gunnell at this point? What are the main differences between the two QBs?
I certainly believe Grant Gunnell should be the starter from here on out, and should get the vast majority of the meaningful snaps, but there’s still a place for Khalil Tate in this offense. His athleticism and arm strength still make for a tremendous combination, but his decision-making has rapidly dwindled and he can’t be trusted to be consistent. The same can’t be said for Gunnell, who shows amazing poise for a true freshman and isn’t always so quick to leave the pocket and panic.
2. Who are some of your best players in the skill positions?
J.J. Taylor is a tremendously hard-working running back who may be even better as a pass-catcher, which could be the way he makes it into the NFL someday. Gary Brightwell, another RB, doesn’t get used nearly enough for his skill set—we consider him Arizona’s Alvin Kamara, Alabama/Tennessee version. The WR corps is incredibly deep but there isn’t really a breakout player from the group except maybe Tayvian Cunningham, a junior college transfer who is small but very fast.
3. How have things looked defensively since the dismissal of Yates? Is there any sort of defensive philosophy at this point? Are the Wildcats more comfortable against the pass or the run?
Chuck Cecil had been around the program for a few years as a defensive analyst, but two weeks ago against Oregon State was his first time calling plays since midway through his NFL coaching stays. He had to move to the coach’s box at halftime to get a better perspective, and things improved slightly, but the fact is Arizona just doesn’t have much defensive talent outside of its linebackers. I guess the Wildcats are slightly better against the run than the pass but the difference is negligible.
4. Who has impressed you the most on the defensive side of the ball?
As previously mentioned, the LBs are the only ones doing a lick of anything notable. Juniors Tony Fields II, Anthony Pandy and Colin Schooler have combined for 184 tackles, 15 for loss, and seem to be involved in almost every play. But that’s greatly due to a defensive line that gets zero pressure on the quarterback and last in the Pac-12 in TFLs with 36.
5. Are Wildcat fans happy with coach Sumlin at this point in the season?
No, but that’s not surprising. This fanbase, for as long as I can remember, has unfairly compared it to men’s basketball in terms of results and success. Arizona is the kind of program that should be fine with 7-8 wins a season with the occasional outlier up or down, but fans expect championships and a Rose Bowl that may never happen. Kevin Sumlin inherited a talent-devoid roster and that’s showed so far, but the players he’s brought in have shown promise. What he does next year is what will really determine if he can actually have any success in Tucson.
6. Describe to us what a Wildcat upset would look like against the Ducks this Saturday.
Frankly, it would take Oregon pooping the bed so badly because of all the pressure that comes from chasing a playoff spot. Turnovers, special teams mistakes, allowing big plays on defense. I basically just described the things Arizona has done far too many times during its four-game losing streak.
7. Score prediction?
I’m fully expecting the Ducks to use the stage of a nationally televised late-window game to beef up their resume as much as possible against a very vulnerable Arizona team. Oregon wins 62-17.