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The Wildcats picked up their second win a row to move one win away from bowl eligibility. While the ‘Cats season has been a disappointment of sorts, a bowl berth (likely meaning a Territorial Cup victory over Arizona State) would leave many fans happy. Like always, there are game day grades to give out for Arizona’s most-ready NFL prospects, so let’s get to it!

Khalil Tate, QB

Game Stats: 17-22, 350 YDS, 5 TD, 1 INT, 4 CAR, 15 YDS.

Khalil Tate turned in what is no doubt the best game of the season to date. The Arizona quarterback matched a season-high with five touchdown passes, and Tate’s 77% completion percentage from Saturday’s win is easily a season-best. When injuries to both ankles became bad enough to force Tate to the sidelines against UCLA, it seemed like the season could be lost. However, since Tate has returned under center a week later, he has led Arizona to a pair of conference wins, evened the ‘Cats record, and created a logjam at the top of the PAC 12 South with Arizona, Utah, and USC all sitting with a 4-3 conference record.

It was no doubt an exciting performance, but as far as the NFL goes, Tate’s slow start to the season, a seeming lack of running ability, and inconsistent play when healthy are all things to be aware of. It is probably a safe bet that we see Tate in Tucson next season, and with a full offseason to learn Kevin Sumlin’s system, the quarterback could be primed for a big year.

Game Day Grade: A   

Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent

Next Week: After a bye week, Tate and the Wildcats leave the desert to take on a top-10 Washington State team that leads the conference with 27 sacks, and is 25th in the nation in total defense.

The Cougars are holding opposing offenses to under 200 passing yards per game, and are undefeated at home, so Tate will have his hands full. However, Arizona comes into this matchup having scored 40+ points in each of the last two games, so there could be some fireworks this weekend in Pullman.

Shawn Poindexter, WR

Game Stats: 2 REC, 40 YDS, 2 TDS

For the second week in a row, Shawn Poindexter only caught two passes. However, like last week, Poindexter was able to turn his catches into a pair of scores, both of which gave Arizona a lead in a one-score victory.

Poindexter’s season has been somewhat of a mixed bag – there has either been yardage or scores, but not both. This being said, the NFL-ready receiver has found a way to be productive throughout the majority of the season, and after only finding the end zone twice in the first seven weeks of the season, Poindexter now has six touchdowns in his last three games. 

Arizona has climbed back into the conference race and 10 weeks into the 2018 season, Poindexter leads the receiving corps in yards and averages a monstrous 18.3 yards per catch – good for second best in the conference. There is no doubt that he is NFL-ready. The only question is if the Wildcats can go on a run to end the season, does Poindexter crack the first round?

Game Day Grade: B

Current Draft Stock: 2nd Round

Next Week: The ‘Cats have a bye week, but looking ahead, Poindexter faces a stiff test in two weeks, with Washington State easily the best team in the PAC 12. That being said Poindexter could still be in line for a productive game. The Cougars red zone defense is ranked 123rd in the nation, with opponents scoring points almost 93% of the time.

Layth Friekh, OL

After turning in a dominant game against Oregon’s larger defensive front, Layth Friekh briefly missed some time in Saturday’s win over the Buffs but returned in time to help Arizona pound the rock and control the game.

Friekh and the O-line consistently gave Khalil Tate a clean pocket to work with, and it showed as Tate was able to effectively connect on deep routes throughout the game. In the running department, Friekh was nasty, opening major holes for J.J. Taylor, who is now the conference leader in rushing yards.

While Friekh has missed some time with injuries and an NCAA suspension, it is clear that the offense takes a big step forward, and that the line consistently plays better when he is on the field. The value that Friekh provides to the ‘Cats offense is unquestionable.

With two (or three) games left in the season, and no more eligibility remaining, Friekh’s quest to make it to the NFL is coming down to the wire. I think he makes it.

Game Day Grade: B

Current Draft Stock: 6th Round

Next Week: Arizona needs all hands on deck if there is any chance of taking down Washington State following a bye week. With 27 sacks on the season, the Cougs defense line is the real deal and can get after the quarterback.

For Friekh, the Washington State defensive line gives a real opportunity to show that he is meant for the next level. The Cougars front gives up a paltry 104 rushing yards at home, so this is chance for Friekh to show that he can be both a run blocker and a pass protector on Sundays.

Kylan Wilborn, DL

Game Stats: Did not play

After a pedestrian performance in last week’s win against Oregon, Kylan Wilborn was nowhere to be seen this week. Information regarding Wilborn’s status is few and far between, but the speedster missed the game against UCLA three weeks ago with an undisclosed injury, so whatever is going on could still be an issue.

Fortunately, Arizona has been able to pick up a pair of wins, but Wilborn has lacked production for most of the season. At this point in the season, the pass-rusher who’s game is built on speed off the edge has four games with only one tackle, and has missed three with an undisclosed injury, so there is neither the impressive production, game control, or body type to herald a selection in the draft.

Right now, the bet is that Wilborn returns to Tucson in the fall, hopefully with a retooled defense that can take Arizona to the next level.  

Game Day Grade: Incomplete

Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent

Next Week: Colorado is in town, where the Buffs season has quickly fallen off the rails following a 5-0 start. This sets up a decent matchup for Wilborn.

Buffs quarterback Steven Montez has taken 16 sacks this season, third most in the conference. If Arizona can get an early lead, Wilbron could unleash his speed and get to the quarterback if Colorado is forced to throw the ball to try to get into the game.  

Dereck Boles, DL

Game Stats: 2 tackle, 1 solo, 1 TFL

For Dereck Boles, there is nothing new to report, just a productive week per usual. The senior defensive lineman had a pair of tackles, including a stop behind the line of scrimmage as the defensive line controlled the trenches for a second week in a row holding Colorado to just 40 yards on the ground.

Boles does not have the luxury of starring on a lockdown defense, or playing on a championship contender, but has managed to thrive in conference play and find ways to be productive week in and week out. This bodes well for his NFL hopes because if you can play, scouts will find you, and Dereck Boles is showing that he is a force to be reckoned with in the trenches.

Even as the Wildcat defense has struggled throughout the season, Boles is hardly the reason why and should have no trouble finding a home in the NFL next season.

Game Day Grade: B

Current Draft Stock: 5th Round

Next Week: Arizona’s bye week could not have come at a better time, as Boles and co. get a week off before heading to Pullman to take on 8-1 Washington State. The Cougars aren’t as proficient running the ball but their offensive line is still a high-quality unit, having given up only seven sacks all season, good for fifth in the country.

J.J. Taylor, RB

Game Stats: 40 CAR, 192 YDS

Arizona running back J.J. Taylor has quietly had one of the better seasons in all of college football. After a third consecutive game with 150+ yards, the speedy Taylor now leads the Conference of Champions with 1,221 rushing yards.

Taylor has been the brightest, most consistent part of the Arizona offense, and continues to show that he is next-level ready each week. In last weekend’s win over the Buffs, Taylor was a workhorse shouldering a massive workload and carrying the ball 40 times.

With the game on the line, Taylor clinched the win with two big runs of nine and 21 yards, both going for first downs and helping the Cat’s run the clock. J.J. Taylor has shown exceptional speed and elusiveness,

Game Day Grade: A

Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round

Next Week: A bye week is just what J.J. Taylor needs, giving the young running back time to recover before a big showdown against Washington State. The Cougars defense is ranked in the top third of the country in rushing defense, and give up just over 130 yards a game, but plays much better at home, giving up just over 104 yards.

It could be tough sledding for Taylor, but the Arizona offense has found a stride lately, so a big game could be coming, especially with the bye week to prepare.

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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