Stevens: Lobo Backup Quarterbacks Need To Step Up

Aug. 16, 2012

Lobo Football

Up Next:New Mexico vs. Southern
When/Where: 3 p.m., Sept. 1 - University Stadium

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The pass from Cole Gautsche's strong left arm wasn't exactly a bullet. It floated a bit as the true freshman lofted a pass high over the defense and down the left sideline toward a fleet receiver.

However, you couldn't argue with the end result: a completion.

Good enough.

The pitch from sophomore Quinton McCown wasn't exactly a bullet either. But he led the trailing running back just right and the New Mexico back turned the corner in full stride and picked up some nice yardage.

Good enough.

If you had to simplify into a single word what Gautsche needs to improve and what McCown needs to improve in order to become the backup to senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook, it would go down like this:

Gautsche: Passing.

McCown: Running.

Of course there's more. "They are young and I'm not sure they have the right sense of urgency," said Coach Bob DeBesse, New Mexico's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. "They need every rep they can get and they have to understand that they have to make each rep they get count.

"I'm having a problem with their lack of focus and their lack of urgency."

The urgency factor in the Lobos' fall camp in Ruidoso went up a notch at the quarterback position when Holbrook left camp on Wednesday in order to have some medical evaluations done back in Albuquerque. Holbrook complained of a shortness of breath during two consecutive practice sessions.

That gave Gautsche and McCown more reps over center Dillon Farrell. There were some good results. There were some bad results.

DeBesse said he was more than surprised to see the football on the ground several times after sloppy exchanges on the snap.

"Surprised isn't the word. I can't use the word that I'd like to use," said DeBesse. "I was extremely disappointed; incredibly disappointed. There was a lack of understanding the most important thing in that situation (ball control).

"That was a telling sign of where we are with the backups. We have a long, long, long ways to go. We need more progress from our backups. Obviously, you can say that about a lot of positions, but the trigger man is kind of important."

Obviously, the Lobos want and need Holbrook back in the huddle. But quarterbacks are targets on the football field and the No. 2 quarterback is an important position.

A week ago David Vega, a transfer from the New Mexico Military Institute, was making a strong charge to be that No. 2 guy before being suspended from the team for breaking a team rule. The Roswell Goddard High product passed for more than 5,600 yards and 50 touchdowns in two seasons at NMMI.

The junior walk-on's suspension was indefinite, so he could return to the roster. If so, he has fallen behind.

"He's not here so he's not a part of the process right now," said DeBesse.

The battle between Gautsche and McCown is a close one and an interesting one.

Gautsche is a Tebo-type in that he exhibits good leadership qualities and is a strong runner with solid mechanics in executing the offense on the ground. He needs to improve his passing.

Gautsche led the Cleveland High Storm to the Class 5A title throwing for 3,085 yards with 39 touchdowns. He ran for 1,218 yards and 23 TDs. He was a dual threat in the prep ranks where both his size (6-4, 227) and his talent were huge edges at that level.

Things are different at the D-I level.

"Cole is pretty good with the run game, but he has to develop more consistency and confidence in his passing game," said DeBesse.

The 6-4 McCown ran a pistol offense at Modesto Junior College so he has a good feel for the offense that DeBesse wants to run. At Modesto, McCown threw for 2,245 yards and 20 touchdowns with nine picks. He rushed for more than 500 yards. Those are good, balanced numbers out of the pistol.

He is a bit behind since he signed with New Mexico during the summer and did not participate in spring ball. Gautsche did.

"Q (Quinton) has a good release, but he has to concentrate on his footwork," said DeBesse. "He has some bad habits he has to break with his technique and mechanics. They are causing errant balls. He has to shore up his technique and his focus.

"There simply has to be a greater sense of urgency on the part of these two backups."