Arizona football: Sumlin calls on Rhett Rodriguez for UCLA game

Rhett Rodriguez fires a pass against Utah.Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

QB Khalil Tate will sit because of ankle injury

Khalil Tate will finally get some rest for his troublesome left ankle.

Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin, on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference with the media on Tuesday, said that Tate is out this week after missing most of last Friday night's 42-10 loss at Utah.

That ushers in sophomore Rhett Rodriguez for his first career start. The Wildcate (3-4, 2-2) play at UCLA (1-5, 1-2) on Saturday night from the Rose Bowl.

It makes sense.

If Tate can't move, can't be the dual-threat that made him one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the country for parts of last season and a preseason Heisman darling, then there is no sense playing him.

Take away a big game against lower-division Southern Utah -- 349 passing yards, five touchdowns -- here are Tate's passing numbers in six games: 82 of 158 (51.9 percent) for 1,066 yards, with six touchdowns and four interceptions.

Without the legs -- 1,411 rushing yards last season -- Tate has struggled in the new system of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

The difference in physical skills between Tate and Rodriguez are obvious, but Rodriguez has a high football IQ, is likely to make the right pre-snap reads and then understand where to go with the ball. All that matters, too.

"He's a smart kid. He picks it up. He knows," Mazzone said in the spring. "I'm sure it's genetic. He knows football."

It's a heck of a storyline, with Rodriguez starting for Sumlin about 10 months after Sumlin was hired to replace Rhett's dad, fired Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.

When Rhett was at Catalina Foothills High School, he talked about the pressure of being the son of college head coach.

"To me, it's a blessing," Rhett said.

"I don't look at any negatives whatsoever. Sure, I'll be scrutinized a little more. Sure, there's a little more pressure on me. But the advantages I have, having an offensive genius, a football genius, at home, eating dinner with me, it's clearly an advantage.

"I think it's been a real major key for me playing football."

Tate aggravated the injury in the second series of the game against Utah when linebacker Chase Hanson landed on the ankle after making a sack.

True freshman Jamarye Joiner, a dual threat from Cienega High School, played the next two series at quarterback before Sumlin put in Rodriguez for a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He did well enough to play the rest of the game.

"I thought he did a nice job in a very, very difficult situation -- being down, being on the road," Sumlin said Monday. "He looked very, very comfortable and poised throughout that time. I just felt like Rhett was doing as good a job as anybody could do at that point, and he continued to play."

True freshman Kevin Doyle, who was recruited by Mazzone and Sumlin late in the recruiting process is another option for playing time against UCLA.

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AndyMorales
AndyMorales

Preserving Joiner for next year perhaps?