ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Khalil Tate makes Sports Illustrated cover, Arizona makes mag’s top-20

Aug 7, 2018, 9:19 AM

The hype is officially real for Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate.

Sports Illustrated revealed four preseason covers for its college football preview edition on Tuesday, and Tate made the cut not only because of lofty expectations put on himself but those placed on his team.

Tate ranked fourth in Sports Illustrated’s list of the 100 best players in college football after his breakout sophomore campaign. The magazine also ranked Arizona No. 19 in its preseason 2018 top-25 list.

Sports Illustrated holds the Wildcats in higher regard compared to the USC Trojans and Utah Utes, who Pac-12 media picked to finish ahead of them in the conference’s preseason poll. SI’s Ross Dellenger writes that Arizona’s X-factor is its first-year head coach, Kevin Sumlin.

In 2012 and ’13, Kevin Sumlin revitalized Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel running the offense, but without Manziel the Aggies floundered, and Sumlin was fired last fall. Now, with junior Khalil Tate at QB, Sumlin has one of the nation’s most electric offenses, but he’ll need a lot more than highlight-reel moments to succeed. In the SEC, Sumlin struggled partly because A&M couldn’t stop the run; in Tucson he inherits a young D that finished 10th in the Pac-12 and ninth in rushing yardage. Most important, the 54-year-old will have to revitalize the Wildcats’ recruiting—his predecessor of six seasons, Rich Rodriguez, failed to bring in elite talent outside of Tate.

A lot of those expectations rest upon on Tate’s arm and legs.

Taking over for former starter Brandon Dawkins five games into the 2017 season, Tate finished with 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air and rushed for another 1,411 yards and 12 scores.

Sports Illustrated’s other picks for its 2018 preseason preview covers feature four Clemson defensive linemen — the Tigers are atop the magazine’s preseason rankings — the Wisconsin offensive line and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver.

Oliver, by the way, will go head-to-head against Tate in Arizona’s second game of the year. Ranked as the top player in the country by Sports Illustrated and considered a candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, Oliver might even see time on the offensive side of the ball, Houston offensive coordinator Kendal Briles mentioned this past week.

The Sports Illustrated covers only build the buzz heading into that matchup.

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