The Arizona Wildcats expressed their displeasure after failing to receive a single nod among the Pac-12's all-conference teams. Six UA players were tabbed for honorable mention, and two racked in freshman player of the year honors. But several Wildcats didn't think the offense garnered enough credit by a conference in which they led multiple statistical categories.
Star reporters Michael Lev and Zack Rosenblatt take you inside the team's media availability after practice Wednesday night, from the frustrations to Khalil Tate's injured shoulder and more.
Arizona goes 0-for in the all-conference department, and players aren't happy
Arizona was 11 days removed from a loss to Arizona State in the Territorial Cup, but after practice on Wednesday night, UA offensive lineman Jacob Alsadek was mad again.
During a mini-rant about a lack of respect Alsadek feels Arizona receives from its peers in the Pac-12, the senior turned to an Arizona spokesperson to make sure he wasn’t taking things too far.
Nobody stopped him.
Alsadek is frustrated, and his teammates are right there with him.
“It’s just like, people don’t want Arizona to get any respect,” Alsadek said. “We beat a lot of teams this year, a lot of good teams, like Washington State. We were ranked in the top 25, right? Led the Pac-12 in rushing, yet no offensive recognition? Something doesn’t add up, dude. People don’t want to give us any recognition. People don’t want to be like, ‘Arizona had a good year. Arizona players are good.’ They don’t want Arizona football to be good. It’s something that pisses me off, but I can’t do anything about it.”
Deserving of more
Alsadek has a problem with the Pac-12, which unveiled its all-conference selections Tuesday. No Arizona player was selected to the Pac-12’s first or second team.
The Wildcats, who went 7-5 in the regular season, weren’t completely shut out. UA linebacker Colin Schooler won Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year, running back J.J. Taylor was co-offensive freshman of the year and six Wildcats were honorable-mention selections.
Still, UA coach Rich Rodriguez said he thought “several guys on offense” deserved recognition, mentioning Taylor, Alsadek, center Nathan Eldridge, quarterback Khalil Tate and receiver/returner Shun Brown.
“I thought those guys were worthy of it. But we won’t cry about it,” he said. “We won’t mention it. I may use it as motivation to get fired up for not just the next game but next season too. We’ve got a lot to prove.”
The most glaring omission came in the absence of Arizona offensive linemen. The Wildcats led the Pac-12 in scoring, rushing, total offense and fewest sacks allowed. Pro Football Focus selected Alsadek to its All-Pac-12 offensive first team.
“That’s a big disappointment because our offensive linemen are probably the best offensive linemen you could possibly have in the Pac-12,” Taylor said. “They might not be bigger than every offensive line you see playing, but I’m telling you, them boys work.”
Brown finished the season ranked second in the Pac-12 with 12.9 yards per punt return, scoring two touchdowns. Pac-12 coaches picked Utah’s Boobie Hobbs to the second team at punt returner over Brown. Hobbs had a 10.7 yard average and didn’t score a touchdown.
Brown said he felt like he deserved the second-team honor, but was more frustrated with the lack of offensive recognition.
“It just blows our mind, the level of disrespect,” Brown said.
Alsadek, though, was more irked about the omission of the quarterback he blocks for. Tate burst onto the scene in October with a record-breaking performance against Colorado, rushing for an FBS quarterback record 327 yards in a win. He finished the year with 1,353 rushing yards despite only playing extensively in seven and a half games, the half coming before leaving the ASU game early with an injury. He finished the regular season second in the conference with 135.3 rushing yards per game; he ran for 12 touchdowns.
“Khalil just set a bunch of records and doesn’t get any recognition?” Alsadek said. “That makes no sense. He missed one Pac-12 game (against Utah) and a half of a Pac-12 game (against ASU). Something just doesn’t seem right to me, but whatever.”
Tate’s shoulder ‘a lot better’
Tate said he wasn’t injured on an ill-fated Hail Mary pass that came just before halftime of Arizona’s 42-30 loss to Arizona State.
The quarterback said he hurt his left (non-throwing) shoulder earlier in the first half on a quarterback draw and tried to play through it.
“None of the (ASU) players did it. I fell on my own,” Tate said. “They hit me at the end, but that didn’t make me injured. I had been injured. They didn’t do that like they think they did.
“It was like a third-and-15, we did a draw play and I got the first down, I got up and that’s when I injured it. … That’s when it happened. It didn’t happen on the Hail Mary. They didn’t hit me that hard.”
Tate said the injury is similar to the one he suffered against Northern Arizona at the beginning of the season. That injury, to his throwing arm, caused him to struggle against Houston and miss two other games.
Both Tate — who said he’s “doing a lot better” — and Rodriguez said he’ll be good to go for the Dec. 27 Foster Farms Bowl against Purdue.
About the Territorial Cup loss, Tate is already licking his chops for next year’s game.
“It hurt a lot because we pretty much had the game in the bag,” he said. “I had to watch and hope for the best. But it’s a learning experience. It’s good that it happened. Next year is going to be different.”
• Graduate assistant Kyle Quinn and staff analyst Glenn Parker will coach Arizona’s offensive line in the wake of Jim Michalczik’s departure for Oregon State. The UA was granted a waiver so Parker could participate in on-field coaching.
• Rodriguez wants to hire an offensive line coach before the bowl game if he can. Quinn and Parker, both former UA players, will be considered. Rodriguez is not looking for a coordinator type for this job. “I need a line guy,” he said.
• Rodriguez doesn’t anticipate much more staff movement but said he has to be ready for it now, after the bowl games and after the NFL season ends. He said he has an idea for what he wants to do with the new 10th assistant job but remains flexible.
• Defensive tackle Luca Bruno, who sat out the Territorial Cup because of a concussion, said he’ll back for the Foster Farms Bowl.
• Defensive end Justin Belknap, who missed the ASU game because of a knee injury, did not have a brace on his leg as he left the locker room.
• What did the Pac-12 say about the so-called block-in-the-back penalty that cost Arizona a touchdown against ASU? “I believe they agreed with our assessment,” Rodriguez said. He’d like coaches to have one challenge per game on a “subjective call” such as pass interference or holding.
• Arizona will use the first week and a half or so of practices to evaluate scout-team players, in addition to prepping for Purdue. It’s hard to accurately assess those guys in season because they aren’t running Arizona’s scheme, Rodriguez said. He added that this time is more important for vets who haven’t played much than freshmen. “It’s time for them to make their mark,” he said, “or they’re going to get passed up.”
• Rodriguez said he expects to sign 15-17 players during the new early signing period Dec. 20-22. Recruiting experts say that number might be a little high.