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Pac-12 media day: Arizona’s Sumlin on Khalil Tate’s offseason progress

Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin answers questions during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

There were high expectations for Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate coming into last season.

After a disappointing year for Tate, head coach Kevin Sumlin addressed what the quarterback did this offseason to help him learn from last season during Pac-12 media day on Wednesday.

Arizona had a 5-7 record last season after Sumlin’s first year at the helm.

Perhaps the biggest reason the team did not perform well a season ago was from Tate as he played through injury.

In 11 games, Tate threw for 2,530 yards and had 26 touchdowns with a 56.3% completion rate.

Where he really fell short last season was his running game. He ran for only 224 yards and had two touchdowns.

In 2017, Tate had 1,411 rushing yards and ran in 12 touchdowns.

Last year’s performance had Tate going into the offseason with a new perspective.

“I think it’s as good as things were and as bad as things were, given him a perspective that maybe he didn’t have at this point last year, and I think it has affected his approach in the offseason, and that’s why we’re looking forward to tomorrow to getting going,” Sumlin said.

In the offseason, Sumlin made it an effort to sit down with his quarterback to discuss what they can do better next season.

“There was a concerted effort on my part to sit down and say, hey, man, here’s what we see, where do you want to be, what do you want to do, here’s how we can help you,” Sumlin said. “It’s part of maturity, because it’s a lot different when walking in here last year when everybody told him how great he was and there was nothing that — gotta be honest.

“We want to be Pac-12 champions, and in order to do that, here are the things that you can do to help yourself be the best player in this league.”

Tate’s improvement in the offseason started with working more with his teammates to take the next step as an offense.

“Really anywhere I’ve been, it’s been more of a quarterback-driven seven-on-sevens, one-on-ones, those workouts, because those have to be voluntary,” Sumlin said. “As a coach, you don’t set those up.

“It’s given him the opportunity to grab guys and get them to go with him and get some extra work in and communicate with his teammates.”

Tate reaggravated an ankle injury during a game versus Utah in October and was unable to play in their next game against UCLA.

Sumlin believes he will learn from his struggles last season and the frustration of not being able to play in Los Angeles where he grew up.

“He was here last year and everybody was telling him how great he is,” Sumlin said. “And then we get halfway through the season last year, and he’s frustrated because he’s in street clothes in LA and in the Rose Bowl and can’t help his team.

“I think the experiences that he had last year were experiences that he could learn from, and part of maturity is how you handle everything, highs and lows, and then he’s certainly in a different place right now than he was last year walking in the door and sitting back there.”

When asked about if the ankle injury affected his run game last year, Sumlin was clear that it definitely made it more difficult.

“If the strength of your game is that and you have an ankle like that, that becomes difficult,” Sumlin said.

He also believes that his quarterback will be more athletic and mobile this year with his ankle healed up.

With the first game of the season just one month away, Sumlin believes the team needs more consistency this season and he’s been seeing it this offseason.

“I couldn’t be happier with the consistency and the effort that these guys have put in in the offseason,” Sumlin said. “The energy in that building before I left and when we get there tomorrow, I’m really, really excited about it, they’re excited about it, and we’re ready to get rolling.”