There is good reason to be excited for the Arizona Wildcats’ upcoming season. Khalil Tate is a Heisman Trophy candidate and RichRod is gone. That’s cause for success, and there’s a reason that there hasn’t been expectations this high since the 2013/2014 season. While the Pac-12 media picked the ‘Cats to finish third in the Pac-12 South, a divisional title seems within reach. That exact hype might be the downfall of the team, however. Realistic measurements of success need to be put in place — this still is a team with inexperience where it matters transitioning to the first year under Head Coach Kevin Sumlin. Here’s how he’ll make it a success:
Kahlil Tate’s stock doesn’t devalue
Online bet placing service BetOnline placed 14/1 odds on Tate to win the Heisman award, the fifth best odds of anyone in the country. He’s really good. He’s one of the most electric players in college football. But he also went into last season as the backup. While that may simply be a testament to how unbelievably bad RichRod was, it also should serve as a cautionary reminder that Tate could end up being a flash in the pan.
Not allowing Tate to recede towards mediocrity should be a goal and a measurement as to the success of the season. Despite being associated with the Heisman-winning and all-around electric talent, Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M during Sumlin’s tenure all but failed to develop any quarterbacks after that, including names who would go on to be successful elsewhere such as Kyle Allen, Kenny Hill, Kyler Murray, and Matt Davis. Tate’s already a Heisman level talent and broke onto the national scene despite RichRod. Sumlin needs to prove that he can work with and continue his development.
The defense averages less than 35 points per game
The ‘Cats gave up 34 or more points in four of six seasons under RichRod. That’s two thirds. That’s being a quantitatively horrible defense like ten years after Desert Swarm and Chuck Cecil. (Editor’s note: Ten years? Sure let’s go with that.)
For Kevin Sumlin to look good, he’ll just have to be mediocre. An aggressively average season will be a huge step up. Even Mike Stoops’ Jeff Fischer impersonation featured a defense that gave up under 30 points a game.
Arizona has the opportunity to be very successful on the defensive side of the ball this season. The defensive line was the biggest problem last year, and Sumlin responded with a line averaging 300 Lbs. The linebacking unit, led by Colin Schooler and Tony Fields, Jr. is going to be bigger and more talented than they it was last season.
The hiring of Herm Edwards to coach the ASU football team by Ray Anderson is absolutely pathetic. Anderson is delusional for thinking that Edwards can just pick up coaching again after, like, twenty years. And Edwards is obviously crazy. Arizona State fans were calling for the hiring of Sumlin after Todd Graham was fired, and they seemed crushed after they ended up with Edwards. And for Arizona to have gotten Sumlin, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
The ‘Cats need to use this opportunity to gain the upper hand in the rivalry and establish themselves as the best program in the state.
If Sumlin achieves these, the foundation will be set to build on.