They anchor the right side of the offensive line. They do it the right way.
Seniors Jacob Alsadek and Gerhard de Beer will play their final home games as Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night. They will leave Arizona Stadium as improved players, developed leaders and dependable veterans — a pair of guys who have come a long way.
“He embodies what you want out of every player,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said of Alsadek, a fixture at right guard who will make his 43rd career start on Senior Night against Oregon State.
“He’s obviously a selfless guy. He worked his tail off to get a scholarship here. He’s worked his tail off since he got here to be a good player. Everything you’d want in a leader, everything you’d want in a football player, a person in your program, he’s done that.”
Alsadek took a more direct path to Tucson than de Beer, who’s from South Africa; the UA campus is about a six-hour drive from Alsadek’s hometown of San Diego. But he wasn’t sure he’d ever make it this far.
Alsadek was a three-star recruit coming of Torrey Pines High School. He had about eight concrete offers. He wanted to go to Stanford, he said Tuesday, but the Cardinal never offered him. Alsadek also thought about Vanderbilt.
But he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Tucson — it far exceeded his expectations of a college campus, a cactus-filled desert and little else — and committed to the Wildcats.
Alsadek conceded that he partied too much while redshirting as a freshman in 2013. He wanted to start, and he knew he had to take football more seriously to achieve that goal.
“I had to grow up pretty fast,” Alsadek said. “I wanted to play, and I was going to do whatever it took.”
Alsadek started 11 games as a redshirt freshman for the 2014 Wildcats, who won the Pac-12 South and played in the Fiesta Bowl. He was the kid then; the other regulars on the offensive line were upperclassmen.
Now Alsadek, de Beer and senior left tackle Layth Friekh are the leaders of that group. It’s a completely different mindset. Alsadek takes it upon himself to “set the tempo and the tone for the day,” he said. If the young guys are messing around in a meeting, Alsadek urges them to focus.
“Jacob Alsadek is the one who started up the flame, and everybody in the whole senior class has started to come together,” de Beer said.
“We don’t allow a lack of discipline, and we try to make sure that we maintain discipline throughout the season. Because as you do well and you start winning, things start to slack.”
No Wildcat has come further, faster than de Beer, whose story has been well-chronicled. The Cliffs Notes version: He came to Arizona to throw the discus and thought he’d give football a try. He knew so little about the sport that he needed help putting his pads on for the first time. He soon fell in love with it and over the course of his UA career developed into a starting offensive lineman.
“I don’t think anyone’s come further in the program than a guy that didn’t even know what a thigh pad was five years ago,” Rodriguez said.
“And he continues to learn. Every day he’s still learning. But man, he’s made himself a pretty good football player.”
De Beer steadily has worked his way back from a knee injury suffered late last season. He has regained the starting spot at right tackle, where he rotates with Cody Creason.
“It’s crazy how much he’s done,” Alsadek said of de Beer. “A kid that never played football — that came in and didn’t know his butt from his face.
“You watch him play and you look at him in practice, you would never think this is, what, his fourth year playing? We all played in high school. We all had a foundation. He never had a foundation. He had no idea what was going on.”
Alsadek has started alongside de Beer 13 times over the past two seasons. Saturday will mark No. 14. They’ll have three games left after that.
Alsadek can’t believe it’s all gone by so fast.
“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “If I could live here the rest of my life and do this, I would.”
Daily Tate update
Sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate’s meteoric rise continued Tuesday when he was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. The award goes to the top quarterback in the country.
The others on the list form a who’s-who of current college quarterbacks, including Heisman Trophy favorite Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma and 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville.
Tate ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (155.3) and first in passing efficiency (157.7 rating). He already has set the league record for rushing yards by a quarterback despite barely playing the first four games.
Tate has drawn comparisons to several dual-threat quarterbacks, including former Virginia Tech and NFL star Michael Vick. Oregon State interim coach Cory Hall, who played with Vick with the Falcons, said such talk is premature.
“Michael Vick? Come on now,” Hall told reporters. “I’m not saying that to knock the kid. Michael Vick was a special player. I understand the comparison. He (Tate) is a mobile quarterback, and he’s made some extraordinary plays with his feet.
“When you start making comparisons to NFLers and you start putting labels on collegiate athletes … it’s not fair to them.”
Vick played 13 seasons in the NFL. He rushed for 1,299 yards in 22 games at Virginia Tech. Tate has 1,087 yards in seven games this season.
- Receiver Shawn Poindexter will participate in senior activities Saturday but is seeking another year of eligibility. He signed with Cal Baptist to play volleyball in 2012, left school due to financial hardship, worked odd jobs for about two years and has played football (at Glendale Community College and Arizona) the past three years.
- Although Arizona is favored by 23 points over Oregon State, the players remember last year’s depressing 42-17 loss in Corvallis. If some forgot, Rodriguez reminded them. “They whipped us good,” he said. “It wasn’t like it just happened in the last second; they beat us from start to finish.”
- Rodriguez said Oregon State uses more formations, shifts and motions than “every team we’ve had combined,” so that will be a huge focal point for the struggling defense this week.
- Safety Dane Cruikshank made Pro Football Focus’ Pac-12 Team of the Week after recording 10 tackles and an interception at USC.