Arizona Wildcats

Date with CU: Nov. 2, 8:30 p.m. MT, at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.

Head coach: Kevin Sumlin, 1st year (86-43 career)

Series: CU leads 14-6

Wildcats in 2017: 7-6, 5-4 Pac-12; lost to Purdue, 38-35, in Foster Farms Bowl

Returning starters: 17 - 8 on offense, 9 on defense

Offensive players to watch (2017 statistics): WR Shun Brown, Sr. (43 catches, 573 yards, 6 TD); C Nathan Eldridge, Jr. (started all 25 games the last two seasons); WR Tony Ellison, Sr. (37 catches, 598 yards, 5 TD); LT Layth Friekh, Sr. (34 career starts); WR Shawn Poindexter, Sr. (19 catches, 294 yards, 1 TD); QB Khalil Tate, Jr. (111-of-179, 1,591 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT; rushing: 153 att., 1,411 yards, 12 TD); RB J.J. Taylor, So. (146 att., 847 yards, 5 TD; 12 catches, 49 yards, 2 TD); TE Bryce Wolma, So. (17 catches, 162 yards, 1 TD).

Defensive players to watch (2017 statistics): DE Justin Belknap, Jr. (23 tackles, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks); DT Dereck Boles, Sr. (42 tackles); CB Lorenzo Burns, So. (81 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 5 INT, 7 PBU); DT Finton Connolly, Jr. (20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks); LB Tony Fields II, So. (104 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 5 sacks); S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Sr. (81 tackles, 3 INT, 2 fumble recoveries); LB Colin Schooler, So. (95 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 INT); CB Jake Whittaker, Sr. (46 tackles, 3 INT, 13 PBU); LB Kylan Wilborn, So. (33 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks).

Notable: In 10 seasons as a head coach, at Houston and Texas A&M, Sumlin has led his teams to nine bowl games. He's had just one losing season. ... Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone was the OC for Sumlin at Texas A&M the past two years. In his coaching career, which began in 1980, he's now worked for four Pac-12 schools, serving as OC for Oregon State (2002), Arizona State (2010-11) and UCLA (2012-15) before coming to Arizona. ... Punter Jake Glatting was last in the Pac-12 with a 35.9-yards per kick average. He'll be a backup this year, as Arizona added Dylan Klumph, a grad transfer from Cal, in the offseason. Klumph was fourth in the conference with a 43.0-yard average. ... Senior kicker Josh Pollack (11-for-15 FGs, 65-for-67 PAT) returns, but will compete with sophomore Lucas Havrisik for the job this year. The kickoff specialist last year, Havrisik has the bigger leg and went 3-for-4 on field goals with a long of 57 yards. ... Schooler, who played at around 215-220 pounds on his 6-foot frame last year, said in spring he's now up to 235-240 and "playing faster and more loose than I did last year."

More than 20 Football Bowl Subdivision teams changed coaches this offseason, many of them looking to give their programs a jolt after a period of disappointment.

There may not be a new coach with more to work with and who is better prepared to win immediately than Arizona's Kevin Sumlin, however.

This month, is previewing each of Colorado's opponents, with this installment focusing on Arizona, which will host the Buffaloes on Nov. 2.

Sumlin, who guided Texas A&M to a 51-26 record over the past six years, takes over a program that was re-energized last season by dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate and a talented group of young players on both sides of the ball.

It was a unique coaching change for the Wildcats (7-6, 5-4 Pac-12 last year), who took a step forward in Rich Rodriguez's sixth season. Rodriguez, however, was fired in early January amid allegations of sexual harassment by a former employee of the athletic department.

Sumlin, whose success at A&M wasn't enough to keep the fans happy, was available and hired less than two weeks later, hoping to achieve the same type of success.

"I see great potential in this football program," Sumlin said when he was hired. "As this opportunity came open, it was the right time for me, and the right place and the right challenge."

The change has been well-received by the players, who embraced Sumlin and his staff.

"It's a quick change for us, having a whole new coaching staff come in quickly," cornerback Jace Whittaker said to Arizona media in the spring. "They took on their job with a sense of urgency and a sense of respect that they know we just had a coaching staff leave. They came in and they were there for us."

Arizona has 17 returning starters, several of which were freshmen on defense last season.

No Arizona player is as highly touted as Tate, who comes into the season as a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Tate, who came off the bench and had his breakout game against Colorado last season, is a sensational dual-threat who is just getting started.

"He's a dynamic player, he's explosive and the big thing for him, everybody has to remember he's only played in seven games," Sumlin said at the end of spring practices. "He's still an inexperienced player and he's got to come work and work at it every day. He's getting better. You've got a different system and different terminology. He's still a work in progress."

Sumlin said the offense won't be too much different from what the Wildcats ran last year, but there are certainly some changes.

"If anything we're closer to what Rich did last year," Sumlin said. "It's not a huge departure offensively. There's a lot of different terminology and you get the one-word plays. When you go fast, you go to one-word plays, and when you go to one-word plays, it takes a lot of memorization.

"The quarterback has to know all those words and what they mean and sometimes that gets confusing. That puts a little bit more pressure on the quarterback to know exactly where everybody is going."

Tate, however, said after the spring that the changes are not "anything that's too hard to deal with," and said he and the players have enjoyed working with Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

"We're really understanding coach Sumlin and his plays and coach Mazzone and really just buying into the system," he said.

Sumlin made it clear, however, that others around Tate have to step up. That includes the defense, which ranked among the worst in the country last year. However, it's a group that started several young players, including a trio of linebackers - Tony Fields II, Colin Schooler and Kylan Wilborn - with star potential.

"Those guys in there have a chance to be a special group," Sumlin said.

If Tate lives up to expectations, and the young defenders continue making strides, Arizona could be a team that challenges for the Pac-12 South title.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or