Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate runs against Purdue during Foster Farms Bowl last December. The talented QB, who is regarded as a Heisman Trophy candidate and is ranked the No. 7 player to watch in college football by NFL.com, will have the Cougars' full attention in their season opener on Sept. 1.

PROVO — Much of the attention this offseason at BYU has centered around the ongoing quarterback battle.

But the Cougar defense is concerned about another quarterback — Arizona junior Khalil Tate.

Regarded as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Tate has been ranked the No. 7 player to watch in college football by NFL.com, while Sporting News rated him as the No. 4 quarterback in college football.

Last season, the speedy, physical QB started only eight games but rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 9.2 yards per carry. He ran for 327 yards against Colorado, setting a new FBS rushing record. The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder from Inglewood, California, also threw for 1,591 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

BYU visits Arizona on Sept. 1 in the opener for both teams. During the offseason, the Cougars have been preparing for Tate.

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“He’s a different quarterback. We’ve got to try to keep him in front of us,” said Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki. “He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s a better runner than he is a passer but he’s really good.”

BYU safety Dayan Ghanwoloku knows he’ll need to be aware of Tate at all times.

“It’s following the eyes on the quarterback and not breaking too early. Watching film, he looks safeties off,” he said. “Reading the quarterback’s eyes, that’s the big thing. Don’t bite too early. He can run to the outside. My whole thing is to be disciplined in coverage.”