April 28, 2012
Today's story on the quarterbacks is part of a series of University of New Mexico football position breakdowns. Other position stories include:
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Athletic Director of Communications
When the quarterbacks on the University of New Mexico football team understand the "why," coordinator Bob DeBesse knows his unit will start to become successful.
DeBesse, who guided Sam Houston State to 36.9 points - fourth among 124 teams in Division I-AA last season - and 407.5 yards of offense - 27th in I-AA - has come to New Mexico in hopes of producing similar numbers.
UNM is coming off a 2011 season in which it averaged 296.2 yards per game (113th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision programs) and a paltry 12.0 points per game (dead last in the FBS).
"With all players there's a learning process," DeBesse says. "There's a `what' - `this is what I do, what I have to do, this is my assignment.' The `how' - `which is my technique.' And then way down the line is the `why,' and the `why' is the big picture. `I've got to do this because this guy is doing this and this guy is doing this and it all fits together. If I do my 1/11th, we've got a chance.'
"If we all take our turns screwing up 1 out of 11 times, it's hard to run the offense. When they finally learn the `why,' that's when they turn the corner. Nobody on offense right now understands the `why' yet, it's too overwhelming."
During spring practice, DeBesse has been trying to impart his wisdom on those players who have the greatest impact on the offense - the quarterbacks.
There is one part to the "what," "how" and "why" that DeBesse says is the foundation his quarterbacks must have.
"We always talk about having a plan," DeBesse says. "When you break the huddle, if your mind's a blank, and then something happens to where you've got to make a decision and you have no plan, then you're going to get exposed. We need to minimize the mental, not necessarily missed assignments but the mental mistakes that come with the lack of focus of not having a plan."
Only three of the quarterbacks on the Lobo roster stuck with the plan after redshirt freshman Dustin Walton decided to transfer a week ago.
Senior B.R. Holbrook made the most of his 15 practices. For all intents and purposes, Holbrook learned the "w" and the "h" - the "what" and the "how." He is still lacking the "y" ("why").
It's the reason Holbrook, who threw for 1,490 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games (eight starts), is the clear-cut starter heading into the fall.
"I've been happy with B.R.'s progress," DeBesse says. "He's been real conscientious in the classroom settings, in position meetings. He takes good notes. He's really working at it and it's showing by how he's playing. I've been happy with his whole approach to this thing."
The "why" for Holbrook, DeBesse says, will start when the senior achieves a comfort level with DeBesse's offense.
"He needs to continue to learn to trust himself a little more," DeBesse says of Holbrook. "He's been a sponge, as far as learning. He probably knows more than he thinks he knows. For him to cut it loose and be the player he can be, he needs to learn to trust himself and get comfortable and that's hard to do in a new system."
Along with that comes the emphasis on keeping turnovers to a minimum - something that Holbrook's career statistics - seven TDs and 15 interceptions - show room for improvement.
What else will help Holbrook, DeBesse suggests, is the emergence of either Gautsche or Vega as the backup as soon as possible during fall camp.
"It's big for that individual, whoever it is," DeBesse says of naming a No. 2. "It's big for the No. 1 guy so that he's pushed, that another guy is pushing him."
Asked which of the backups has the upper hand, DeBesse responds, "It depends on what day you ask."
Gautsche, who guided Cleveland High School to the New Mexico 5A championship less than six months ago, should be getting ready to graduate with his Storm teammate, rather than finishing his first semester at UNM.
DeBesse acknowledges that Gautsche faces some pressure to succeed as the local kid trying to take the reins at his home college.
I think it's probably affected him a little bit," DeBesse says. "He has high expectations for himself, sometimes unrealistic expectations. But he'll grow beyond that because he's mature and you can talk to him about those things."
That's part of the reason Gautsche is already enrolled at UNM, rather than staying at Cleveland through May.
"That's a huge, huge plus for us and for him," DeBesse says. "But it was a big challenge for him. The game's so much faster; his whole life changes from academics to social life. I talked about B.R. in the classroom; Cole's very similar in the classroom. "He's mature beyond his years from that standpoint.
"Off the field, he's very conscientious, very coachable. He asks good questions; he's not afraid to ask questions. For a guy who should be graduating from high school still, he has the confidence to be able to say `I need to know this. I'm not going be afraid to ask this question, no matter how dumb it may sound.' I appreciate that."
Vega comes to UNM with a little more experience, having started two years New Mexico Military. He set a single-season record for passing yards in 2010 with 2,829. Head coach Bob Davie on more than one occasion said that Vega had an unconventional style but just made plays.
DeBesse's task is to make an improviser work within the framework of a playbook.
I like his competitive nature," DeBesse says of Vega, the junior transfer. "I like his innate belief in himself, (his experience with) the speed of the game at this level. It's great to have all that stuff, but you better have mechanics staying within the system, the grind of understanding the big picture - `this is why I have to do what I do, sometimes I can't freelance, sometimes I have to stay within the system.' "
It's a system with proven results; Sam Houston State came within one win of a national championship, losing in the Football Championship Subdivision title game.
That's why DeBesse is working for - and the rest of the Lobo community is feverishly anticipating - the day his quarterbacks can answer the "why."