If he plays, Arizona QB Khalil Tate won’t catch USC by surprise

Oct 14, 2016, 6:00 AM | Updated: 11:22 am
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate (14) is tackled by Utah defensive end Hunter Dimick (49) and defens...

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate (14) is tackled by Utah defensive end Hunter Dimick (49) and defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Salt Lake City. Utah defeated Arizona 36-23. (AP Photo/George Frey)

(AP Photo/George Frey)
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Expect the worst.

It might as well be the Arizona Wildcats’ motto during a season of injuries endlessly assaulting the roster.

Rich Rodriguez lists quarterback Brandon Dawkins as questionable for the second week in a row. Unlike last week, it won’t be about Dawkins playing through sore ribs but whether he can be cleared of a concussion before Arizona faces the USC Trojans on Saturday.

As former starter Anu Solomon (knee) remains doubtful and with doctors left to decide Dawkins’ fate, the Wildcats can only prepare freshman Khalil Tate to make his first career start.

The quarterback out of Serra High School in Gardena, Calif. isn’t a stranger to players on USC’s roster. Nine Trojans went to the same high school.

How seriously are the Trojans taking the Los Angeles product who turned down their recruiting offer before choosing the Wildcats?

Defensive end Oluwole Betiku played with Tate at Serra High School, and he’s using embellishment as a tool for his preparation. According to the Associated Press, Betiku told his teammates that Tate weighs 250 pounds.

”I don’t want to say 220 and they feel like he’s a really small dude. Tate is a really strong dude,” Betiku said.

Not a bad way to ensure his fellow Trojans stay woke.

To Betiku’s point about his opponent’s physicality, Tate’s limited action so far indicates he won’t be shying away from contact.

Tate has completed 10-of-17 passes for 177 yards, three touchdowns and one pick, and he’s added 112 yards on 25 attempts on the ground.

In his limited snaps, he’s showed that he’s not a one-trick pony.

And Arizona has shown trust by keeping the playbook open with the passing game. Tate’s made plays from the pocket on fade routes and deep flies — not to mention throws on the run, a key to bringing out the most in Rodriguez’s zone-read offense.

Unsurprisingly, USC hopes to lay a few hard hits on Tate to make Arizona think twice about risking injury to the third-string quarterback.

All in all, the Wildcats’ injury report has dictated the narrative for each game since the season opener. If there’s any positive to it this time around, Arizona could be working in the young quarterback with running back Nick Wilson (ankle), receiver Shawn Poindexter (foot) and offensive lineman Freddie Tagaloa (knee), who are all listed as probable.

Whether it’s the banged up Dawkins or Tate making his first start, any additional support to the quarterback position is more than welcome for the Wildcats these days.

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