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The mixed bag that is the Arizona Wildcats season continued with Saturday’s 24-20 loss to USC that saw Arizona fall behind 24-0 before a couple of late scores made the game look close. Conference play is the great equalizer and a bad start can be erased with dominant PAC-12 play, just like a good start can be quickly forgotten.

With all of that in mind, let’s check in on Kevin Sumlin‘s top NFL prospects, give out this week’s set of game day grades, and try to forecast where Arizona’s playmakers will find themselves on draft day.

Khalil Tate, QB

Game Stats: 16-33, 232 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT, 13 CAR, 38 YDS

Khalil Tate and the Wildcat offense struggled to move the ball against a talented USC front seven that for the most part controlled the line of scrimmage and also the game. In Tate’s first real conference test, the quarterback was inconsistent. Nowhere was this more apparent than the when trailing by 10 late in the fourth quarter and needing eight plays to score from the USC five-yard line.

In Saturday’s loss to USC, Tate was inconsistent throwing the deep ball. A pair of touchdowns came on perfect deep strikes to Stanley Berryhill and Cedric Peterson, but Tate also showed a habit of overthrowing deep down the field. A season that began surrounded by hype has been slowed by inconsistent on-field performance and an ankle injury that has limited a running game that is so important in Tate’s success.

Additionally, the pairing of Tate and Sumlin has not been as fruitful as many had hoped. While Tate is likely seen as a developmental quarterback, the PAC 12 South is wide open, so if Tate can shake off injury concerns and lead the Wildcats to a string of wins, the Arizona quarterback can easily climb the draft boards.

Game Day Grade: C+  

Current Draft Stock: 7th Round

Shawn Poindexter, WR

Game Stats: 2 REC, 22 YDS

It was a rare off day for Wildcat’s receiver Shawn Poindexter, as Tate’s biggest target finished with only two catches for 22 yards. Some of this lack of production is on the quarterback, as Poindexter was open but overthrown on a deep route, but the USC defense kept the Arizona offense from finding any kind of rhythm throughout the game.

The Wildcats are a middling 2-3 on the season, but Poindexter has had four productive games, so his draft stock shouldn’t slide that much. At this point in the season, Poindexter has played the biggest role in the Arizona passing attack and has shown that he is ready for the next level.

Right now, Poindexter’s biggest knocks are Arizona’s losing record, an uninspiring performance against a talented (albeit inconsistent) USC defense, and only two touchdowns. However, even with Saturday’s clunker, the NFL-ready Poindexter averages a monster 21.7 yards per catch, and easily leads the Wildcat receiving core with 391 yards.

Game Day Grade: C-

Current Draft Stock: 2nd Round

Layth Friekh, OL

After missing the first two games of the season, tackle Layth Friekh has played in the last three, turning in two productive games and Saturday’s loss to USC. Arizona’s offense struggled to run the ball, which points to Friekh and company losing the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Friekh will most likely find a spot in an NFL camp next year, but like so many other Wildcats, needs to show that he can control the trenches and open up holes consistently for Arizona backs against the top teams in the PAC 12, not just against weaker teams.

Running back J.J. Taylor came into Saturday’s game against USC averaging 119 yards per game, and finished with a season-low 50 yards, averaging just 2.8 yards-per-carry, which speaks volumes about the lack of impact the offensive line had on Saturday.

Game Day Grade: C+

Current Draft Stock: 6th Round

Kylan Wilborn, DL

Game Stats: 2 tackles, 2 solos, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss

While the offense struggled mightily, the Arizona defense played well enough to keep the Wildcats in the game up until a missed PAT ended any hopes of a miracle comeback. Edge rusher Kylan Wilborn played a big part in keeping the game close, sacking Trojan quarterback J.T. Daniels in the third quarter. That sack forced a fumble that fellow defensive lineman P.J. Johnson was able to recover to give the Wildcat offense a short field.

For Wilborn, Saturday’s game was his second of the season with a sack, and the forced fumble was impactful. The sophomore has had some growing pains after a spectacular freshman season, but with three straight games of multiple tackles and Saturday’s big performance, Wilborn is moving into the later rounds of the draft.

Like Tate, Wilborn has had a slow start to the season after expecting to play a big part defensively, but Wilborn looks like he is beginning to find a groove as conference play continues. If this type of play continues, Wilborn should rise up draft boards.

Game Day Grade: A

Current Draft Stock: 6th Round

Dereck Boles, DL

Game Stats: 5 tackles, 5 solos

Defensive tackle Dereck Boles had his best game of the season on Saturday. The senior had a season-high five tackles, all solo against the most talented offense Arizona has seen all year. The Wildcats are generally regarded as an offense-first team, so Boles playing well in a nationally televised game helps his draft stock and helps garner draft attention.

Even as USC was able to push the Arizona defensive line around, Boles did a good job plugging up running lanes against a talented USC front. Boles was explosive at the line of scrimmage and flashed next-level quickness to stuff a fourth-down run late in the game. As a senior with no more eligibility, Boles needs to show that he can he can hang in the trenches and consistently win battles up front.

It doesn’t help that Arizona’s defense has been streaky over the first five weeks of the season and that USC rumbled for 253 yards on the ground, but Boles played well, showed up on the stat sheet, and Saturday’s game is a step in the right direction.

Game Day Grade: B+

Current Draft Stock: 6th Round

Jace Whittaker, CB

Game Stats: Did not play

Jace Whittaker again was nowhere to be seen, as Arizona’s expected defensive leader has been banged up by injuries all season. At this point, the Wildcats and Whittaker’s season is almost halfway over, so it will be interesting to see how Kevin Sumlin manages his playing time when Whittaker returns.

Game Day Grade: Incomplete

Current Draft Stock: Incomplete

Henry Rounds

Author Henry Rounds

23 year-old from Pasadena who is an aspiring sports writer. I am a big football, baseball, basketball fan who loves the Dodgers and spending time outdoors.

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Sports Al Dente 2019

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