KELLY: UA Fall Camp observations

KELLY: UA Fall Camp observations
Defensive tackle Larry Tharpe (2nd from left) has the potential to be a dominant force for Arizona.
Defensive tackle Larry Tharpe (2nd from left) has the potential to be a dominant force for Arizona.
Not having Deandre' Miller in Fall Camp is a huge setback for Arizona's defense (Photo courtesy: AP).
Not having Deandre' Miller in Fall Camp is a huge setback for Arizona's defense (Photo courtesy: AP).

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - UA Football practice was open for business on Saturday night on Kindall Field at Sancet Stadium.

Or at least open to the prying eyes of the media.

Here are some of my takeaways from the night:

My biggest problem with quarterbacks Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate is they don't make quick decisions in the passing game.

They didn't last year in games and I didn't see a whole lot to change my mind on that Saturday night.

What I did see that I liked was Donavan Tate.

Of course this is a very small sample size but I counted at least three occasions where his decision making was quick and precise, once in the run-game on a zone-read keeper and twice in the passing game when he dropped and made decisive throws for positive yards.

I want to see more of that from Tate and Dawkins and less of them dropping back and scrambling to the sidelines to try and make throws.

Dawkins on one series struggled to throw the ball against what looked like the third-defensive unit.


We knew the Wildcats had running backs who can run the football in Nick Wilson, J.J. Taylor and what looks to be a big physical guy in Nathan Tilford but I believe all these guys can be excellent receivers too and that's only going to help this Arizona offense.

Tilford catching the ball in the flat and rumbling down the field? I wouldn't get in his way.

And add freshman Gary Brightwell to the list.

It looks like the running back might be as much a receiver because the Wildcats don't have a ton of proven pass catchers outside of junior Shun Brown.


I'm probably burying this in this column but the guy I believe is the most important on the Wildcats roster was mysteriously standing on the sideline for most of Saturday's practice.

I say mysteriously because due to these things called TV newscasts that I'm involved in I had to leave practice before it concluded so I didn't get to find out why Larry Tharpe Jr. didn't participate in any of the Cats team drills.

That's right. I believe Larry Tharpe Jr. is the most important player on this team.

Wildcat Authority rated him No. 14. The Daily Star believes he's the 11th most important player on the team.

I believe he's #1 because he's the only player I've seen on the defensive line who has the ability to create havoc on every single play that he lines up.

The last time the Wildcats were good (2014), they had a dominant front-seven player in Scooby Wright.

And that was on a team that finished 8th in the Pac-12 in total defense.

And of course there was more to that 2014 team than Wright, you had a 4,000-yard quarterback and a 14-hundred-yard running back.

But Scooby could change the game.

To have a chance in this league you need at least one guy defensively who can get you off the field, something UA struggled to do last season.

Tharpe down the stretch showed an ability to disrupt the line from the inside as well as make plays in the passing game.

He had six passes broken up or defended, the most by any lineman on the team and he only played eight games. That was more than some defensive backs on the Wildcats.

No offense to Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles who many have anointed as the best defensive player on this team and most likely NFL prospect. The Notorious DFF, as I like to refer to him, may be all those things but on my defense the most important player cannot be a player in the defensive backfield.

And don't get me wrong I love the DBs. Cornerback is my favorite position in football but the most important player has to be someone in the front-seven, someone who can effect the game on every play.

Larry Tharpe Jr. to me has the look of a game-changing defensive player, but he's got to get on the field and he was noticeably absent in key practice drills on Saturday night.


My #2 most important player on the Wildcats is linebacker Deandre' Miller.

Again a front-seven player who when healthy has the ability to change the game.

The problem is he is seldom healthy. He played 11 games last season at less than 100% and he'll start this season behind due to a foot injury.

Miller was on crutches and wearing a boot when Fall Camp opened on Monday.

So my #1 and #2 most important players on the UA weren't even on the field for team drills Saturday night.

Not a promising way to start Fall Camp and cornerback Jace Whitaker talked (in the video attached to this story) about an even bigger reason why the Wildcats defensively miss Miller's presence.


And then there's safety Jarvis McCall.

Who last we saw was exiting stage left during the Territorial Cup Game after he was flagged for targeting.

So I guess he decided to take out some frustration on wide receiver Sean Poindexter.

He laid him out on a pass play over the middle that drew plenty of oohs from those in attendance.

I'll say this. Had it been a game. It's the kind of football hit I like. It was very Will Parksesque.

20 years ago you could make that hit in practice.

But today is a different day and as much as I didn't have a problem with the hit, you just can't lay your own guys out in practice.

It's practice, not a game (in my best Allen Iverson).

Not too mention the fact this is a team with a lack of proven wide receivers and we certainly don't need the 6'5-potential of Poindexter in concussion-protocol thanks to friendly fire.

Now there were referees on hand at the practice and a flag was not thrown but the play still did not sit well with head coach Rich Rodriguez who addressed this type of play in his post practice remarks (above at 2:31 courtesy: Arizona Athletics).

Jarvis put that hit back in your pocket and save it for USC.


Other players that stood out both good and bad:

  • Freshman linebacker Tony Fields (a lot of speed and looks the part of a play-making front-seven force)
  • Cornerback Jace Whitaker (breaking up passes)
  • Freshman defensive end Jalen Harris (speed rush off the edge)
  • Defensive tackle Jack Banda (sacking Tate, because he held the ball too long)
  • Linebackers Anthony Pandy and Kylan Wilborn (sacking Rhett Rodriguez, due in most part to his line getting played)
  • Anthony Pandy (looked strong in pursuit and also broke up a pass)
  • Rhett Rodriguez (looked best when he was tucking and running)
  • Defensive backs Lorenzo Burns, Jarrius Wallace and Scott Young (appear to be young defenders who will play right away)
  • Transfer defensive tackle Dereck Boles (strong power rush inside)
  • Receiver Tony Ellison and tight end Trevor Wood (dropped passes)

The Wildcats are off from Fall Camp on Sunday.

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