For the second time in three weeks, Arizona had a nationally televised, primetime game. Also for the second time in three weeks, the Wildcats disappointed on the big stage. As is the nature of sports, there is always a winner, a loser, and no middle ground. But, no matter how the game plays out, there is always the opportunity to showcase immense talent – even in a blowout. So, let’s see how Arizona’s top NFL prospects fared over the last week.
Khalil Tate, QB
Game Stats: 1-4, 3 YDS, 2 CAR, 3 YDS
Khalil Tate’s season hit an unofficial rock bottom during Saturday’s second blowout loss of the season when the junior quarterback injured his ankle after a first-quarter sack by Chase Hansen and had to leave the game. The Arizona offense was in the process of getting shutout over the course of the first half, and Tate was replaced by Jamarye Joiner for a series before Rhett Rodriguez finished the first half and the game.
Arguably no player and team have been more disappointing this season than Tate and the Wildcats. The offense was a mess no matter who was under center, and the Wildcats took the opportunity to play in front of a national crowd during a primetime game and came away on the wrong end of a 42-10 blowout.
After USC quarterback Sam Darnold was drafted by the Jets, Arizona was expected to be in the PAC 12 South conversation with a dynamic quarterback and new head coach who had previously developed NFL quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel.
Instead, the ‘Cats have been an offensive mess and now trail the first place the Trojans by three games. For Tate, continued ankle injuries have made this into a “what if” season, and now, all the struggling quarterback can do is hope for a speedy recovery and a chance to make a late-season impact.
Gameday Grade: F
Current Draft Stock: Undrafted Free Agent
Next Week: Wildcat’s first-year coach Kevin Sumlin has confirmed that Tate will be out against UCLA this week. Sophomore backup Rhett Rodriguez now finds himself in the starting spot against a Bruins team that is 1-5 and also down a starting quarterback. This should be a good chance for Arizona to get back into the win column and climb back into the conference race.
Shawn Poindexter, WR
Game Stats: 3 REC, 39 YDS
Saturday’s uninspiring loss was the second week in a row that NFL-hopeful Shawn Poindexter finished with only three catches and was a non-factor in the Ute’s dismantling of the Wildcats.
After a consistently productive month to start the season, Poindexter now has only eight catches over the past three games. For better or for worse, the NFL is a results-driven league. Poindexter has had the challenge of catching passes from different quarterbacks this season, making it much harder to establish on-field chemistry, but three weeks of subpar performances have hurt the senior wideout’s draft stock.
Gameday Grade: C-
Current Draft Stock: 3rd Round
Next Up: How the Arizona offense runs with the combination of backups Rhett Rodriguez and Jamarye Joiner is anyone’s guess, but the matchup against UCLA should bode well for Poindexter, at least on paper. The Bruins are 78th in the country in opponents’ passing yards per game, and overall, give up more than 400 yards a game, so it is a good time for Poindexter to turn things around.
Layth Friekh, OL
Layth Friekh was one of three Wildcats who missed the second half of the loss to Utah with injuries when the leader of the Arizona offensive line left in the second quarter and did not return. Friekh also had to exit the game against USC with similar issues two weeks ago, so it will be interesting to see how Kevin Sumlin manages Friekh’s injury this time around.
One important thing to note is that after missing the first two games of the season due to an NCAA ruling, Friekh is in his last year of eligibility. The senior tackle has looked good helping open lanes for J.J. Taylor to rumble for a PAC-12 third-best 663 yards but has also appeared to have trouble pushing off and moving around as well.
Gameday Grade: D+
Current Draft Stock: 7th Round
Next Week: Friekh’s return against UCLA is up in the air, as Sumlin has to manage Friekh’s injury to both win games now as well as help prepare the senior for the upcoming draft. Friekh has a season plagued by ankle injuries and an NCAA ruling, so there is a lot more at stake than the Bruins on Saturday.
However, defensively, UCLA gives a lot of yards, both in the air (78th overall) and on the ground (86th overall), so it is a good chance to build confidence and show dominance against a conference opponent.
Kylan Wilborn, DL
Game Stats: DNP
The already suspect Arizona defense took another hit when hybrid linebacker/defensive end Kylan Wilborn suffered an undisclosed injury in the Wildcat’s win over California and had to miss Saturday’s game against Utah.
Is missing Wilborn the reason Arizona gave up 42 points? Probably not, but it is hard to know if things would be so different had Wilborn played. As far as Wilborn’s draft stock goes, the Arizona prospect has hovered around the late rounds, with more recent production helping the cause.
Right now, there is no new news concerning Wilborn’s availability against UCLA, but if the sophomore playmaker ends up missing a few weeks, he could face an uphill battle to get back into the draft.
Gameday Grade: Incomplete
Current Draft Stock: 7th Round
Next Week: After getting embarrassed against a Utah team that has scored at least 40 points in back-to-back games, the Wildcats now travel to Los Angeles to take on a one-win Bruin team. It is unclear if Wilborn will play, but a Bruins team with a true freshman quarterback in Dorian Thompson-Robinson at the helm is a great chance to rack up some defensive statistics.
Dereck Boles, DL
Game Stats: 3 tackle, 3 solo
If you had been watching Arizona defensive tackle Dereck Boles the past three weeks, you might think the Wildcats have a defense to be reckoned with. That might not be true, and although the Ute offensive line was able to push the Arizona line around, Boles maintained productivity with three solo tackles.
However, it is hard to put a positive spin on a defense that was gashed for 230 rushing yards and has now given up over 40 points twice this season. As I have said before, the NFL is a results-driven league, so if Boles can keep being productive and show both quickness and gap integrity in the trenches, I don’t see a scenario in which Boles doesn’t find a place in an NFL camp next year. Of course, if the defense keeps giving up 40 points, all bets are off.
Gameday Grade: B-
Current Draft Stock: 6th Round
Next Week: Dereck Boles and co. head to the Rose Bowl, where the going should get easier. The Bruins and first-year coach Chip Kelly do not have any of the top five quarterbacks, running backs, or wideouts in the conference, and are last in the PAC 12 in yards per game, passing yards per game, and total yards.
Jace Whittaker, CB
Game Stats: Did not play
Cornerback Jace Whittaker missed his seventh game of a 2018 season that is now halfway over for Arizona. Whittaker has not suited up for the last four games, so it is mostly guesswork to when the talented defensive back will return to the field.
According to Kevin Sumlin, Whittaker has progressed but has not participated in 7 on 7 or 11 on 11 drills. At this point in the season, the Wildcats are 3-4 but have a pair of single-score losses to USC and BYU.
It begs the question especially after Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley caught a 50+ yard touchdown on Saturday if Whittaker is healthy and playing all season, what might the Arizona season look like?
Gameday Grade: Incomplete
Current Draft Stock: Incomplete