ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Could a rotation of Holbrook and Austin work?
Quarterback rotations almost never work.
Yes, the Dallas Cowboys had a bit of early success alternating Don Meredith and Eddie LeBaron in 1962. But, eventually, they faded and finished 5-8-1.
Perhaps readers can think of a truly successful QB rotation. The only one that springs to mind here is Steve Baca and Terry Tiner for Santa Fe High School’s state-championship team in 1979. Even there, eventually, Tiner was moved to running back.
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Nevertheless, the topic for consideration here is the prospect of both B.R. Holbrook and Tarean Austin playing quarterback for the New Mexico Lobos in 2011.
Chances are, both will play at some point. It has become progressively difficult for a college quarterback to play through a season without injury; neither Holbrook nor Austin did so last season.
In fact, mostly because of injuries, no fewer than four quarterbacks took snaps for the Lobos in 2010.
We’re not talking, though, about Austin taking over for an injured Holbrook – or vice versa.
We’re talking about the prospect of a healthy Holbrook and a healthy Austin, both playing.
Saturday, in the Lobos’ second scrimmage of fall camp, Holbrook and Austin played to a virtual standstill.
Austin completed 18-of-29 passes for 201 yards, Holbrook 18-of-28 for 186. Holbrook threw one interception, Austin none. An interception thrown by redshirt freshman Detchauz Wray was erroneously attributed to Austin in Sunday’s Journal story.
Holbrook threw four touchdown passes, Austin only one. But Austin ran for two touchdowns and was the scrimmage’s leading rusher with 69 yards (minus 26 yards lost on sacks).
“Both had their moments,” Locksley said afterward. “For us, the evaluation process will start with which guy moved his team down the field, took care of the football and gives us the best chance to win.
“We’d like to make that decision sooner than later, if possible.”
Holbrook, a junior, appears to be the more accurate passer. He has had a number of thread-the-needle completions in practices, and his 20-yard touchdown throw on a post pattern to freshman wide receiver Daniel Adams on Saturday was a thing of beauty.
Austin, a sophomore, had some success in the passing game as well. He began an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown by looking off a defensive back and finding Adams wide open for a 25-yard completion.
More importantly, perhaps, Austin is without question the better runner.
Unless the Lobos’ running backs fare better behind their offensive line in games than they have in intrasquad scrimmages, running ability at quarterback will be crucial.
In their two full scrimmages, UNM running backs have rushed 97 times for 210 yards. Those numbers are skewed by the fact that the offense often has been put by the coaching staff in designated short-yardage and goal-line situations.
But, invariably, they and the offensive line have been defeated by the defense in those situations.
Saturday, Austin was the Lobos’ best – or, at least, most effective – running back.
After beginning a touchdown drive with the aforementioned pass to Adams, Austin finished it with a 6-yard scramble.
Later in the scrimmage, he faked a handoff up the middle to running back Demarcus Rogers and dashed 48 yards around right end for a touchdown.
On another play that wasn’t counted – perhaps because a defender got a hand on his black, don’t-tackle-me jersey behind the line of scrimmage – Austin juked cornerback Destry Berry out of his cleats and strolled into the end zone from 17 yards out.
Unless the offensive line can give the running backs a better shot, and/or unless the running backs can run harder and/or faster, the Lobos scarcely can do without Austin’s running ability.
But can they do without Holbrook’s accuracy and (perhaps) superior mastery of the offense?
It’s tough for any quarterback to look downfield while looking over his shoulder, wondering when the other guy is coming in. Yet, Locksley has said that, as offensive coordinator at Illinois, he occasionally would pull talented Illini quarterback Juice Williams when he thought it advisable.
So, perhaps, the answer to the Holbrook-or-Austin question is Holbrook and Austin.
At least, it’s an idea worth throwing out there – and seeing who catches it. Or runs with it.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal