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He's The Front 'Runner'

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Lobo Holbrook won’t hesitate to use his feet in the new offense

The date was Oct. 1, 2011. The play was a third-and-7, from the New Mexico 46-yard line, in the second quarter. The Lobos trailed archrival New Mexico State 21-0.

Lobos quarterback B.R. Holbrook, flushed out of the pocket, tucked the football under his arm and took off — surgically repaired, braced left knee and all.

Thirteen yards and a spectacular crash landing later, Holbrook and the Lobos had a first down. It was a key play in a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. New Mexico would make a game of it before falling to the Aggies, 42-28.

“I might not be the fastest guy,” Holbrook said Saturday, as the Lobos wrapped up Session 13 of their 2012 spring drills. “I might not be the biggest guy.

“But I’m gonna try to stick my nose in there, run the ball a little bit and see what I can do.”

Bob Davie loves that kind of talk. Hired in November, as the Lobos staggered toward the finish of a third consecutive 1-11 season, the new head coach has said repeatedly he wants his quarterback to be a running threat.

Toward that end, Davie hired Bob DeBesse as his offensive coordinator.

Last fall, the week before the New Mexico State game, DeBesse’s option-heavy Sam Houston State attack lit up the Lobos for 48 points and 547 yards. Brian Bell, the Bearkats’ quarterback, rushed 11 times for 55 of those.

DeBesse has said the UNM offense is a work in progress, that he doesn’t know how much or how little option the Lobos will run. But, this spring, there has been a lot.

“In order to determine if we go that way,” DeBesse said, “we’ve got to look at it.”

It’s Holbrook’s mastery of the passing game that has made him the clear leader in the competition with fellow quarterbacks Cole Gautsche, Dustin Walton and David Vega. But DeBesse said he’s impressed by the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior’s ability, and willingness, to execute the option.

“Part of his challenge (after Holbrook’s 2010 knee surgery),” DeBesse said, “is convincing himself that he can fulfill that role. To me, more than mechanics and understanding, it’s (the confidence level).

“But as far as where we’re at after 13 practices, I’m really pretty pleased. And I’m pleased with him overall.”

Holbrook no longer wears a brace and says his left knee is as strong as his right. The quarterbacks have been withheld from contact this spring, but Holbrook said he’s not worried about getting hit when the time comes.

“It’s back to 100 percent, so I’ve got no worries when practicing,” he said. “I don’t even think about it.”

If anyone’s thinking the Lobos won’t throw the ball this fall, don’t fret. They will. Holbrook and his wide receivers, particularly senior Lamaar Thomas, have been in sync all spring.

“I love it,” Holbrook said of his chemistry with the receivers. “With Q (Quintell Solomon), Lamaar, Jeric Magnant, Donnie Duncan, Daniel Adams, those guys are big-time receivers.

“I feel comfortable with them, and I know if I put it in the air, they’ll go get it for me.”

Senior tight end Lucas Reed has been withheld from contact this spring because of a hamstring injury. But, at 6-foot-6, he’s expected to be an important part of the passing game in the fall.

In August, then-head coach Mike Locksley named sophomore Tarean Austin the starting quarterback — in part, Locksley said, because he felt Austin was more mobile and more of a running threat than Holbrook.

But, after Holbrook came off the bench in the Sam Houston State game and rallied the Lobos to a near-victory, he started the Lobos’ final eight games. At season’s end, he was named the team’s most valuable offensive player.

DeBesse places a high value on his fifth-year senior quarterback.

“He’s been extremely conscientious,” DeBesse said. “He’s been awesome at meetings; he takes more notes than anybody I’ve ever been around. He’s really, really locked in, so I really appreciate his attitude and his effort.

“I’m a little surprised, and really pleased, with how he’s grasped the overall system. I know he’s got experience and he’s played and all that kind of stuff, but still, it’s like starting over for him. I’m really happy with his progress.”

INVITED GUESTS: More than 50 high school junior football players, almost all from New Mexico, attended Saturday’s practice. The previous Saturday, some 150 New Mexico high school coaches were on hand.

PERSONNEL ISSUES: Offensive tackle Korian Chambers missed Friday and Saturday practices because of a death in his family.

Chambers is expected to return from his home in Memphis, Tenn., in time for Monday’s practice.

… Outside linebacker Joseph Harris has a hyperextended knee and probably will be withheld from contact during UNM’s final two practices of the spring.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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