In and around the University of New Mexico football facility, they call Tevaka Tuioti “The Future.”
Clearly, Tuioti would love the future to be now. Still, the redshirt freshman quarterback knows and understands this is senior Lamar Jordan’s bus to drive.
“I’m very hungry to play,” Tuioti said after Thursday’s practice. “But I’ve just got to be humble and wait until my turn is called. Hopefully, I can do something to help the team.”
In the minds of his head coach and his position coach, he definitely will.
“Tevaka can do anything he wants to do,” quarterbacks coach Apollo Wright said. “It’s just going to be the maturity factor and game experience with him. He’s a big-time talent. … There are no limitations there whatsoever.”
Tuioti already has helped the team, head coach Bob Davie said, in that his talents as a run-pass quarterback fit snugly within the Lobos’ triple option-based offense.
The past two seasons, UNM played two quarterbacks — Jordan and 2016 senior Austin Apodaca — depending on the situation and on one or the other’s health. Jordan was the better runner, Apodaca the better passer. Though both were productive, the offense changed at least sightly depending on which QB was in the game.
This year, there is no plan to go either/or at quarterback. But Davie said that if Tuioti is needed, for any reason, the young quarterback’s skill set is so similar to Jordan’s that the transition within the offense would be seamless.
“That obviously helps us,” Davie said. “It’s a bit easier (than in the past).”
Tuioti, as well, has made a seamless transition from high school utility player to college quarterback.
As a senior at La Mirada (Calif.) High School, he played wide receiver, defensive back and punt returner. And, oh, yes, as a part-time quarterback he completed 40 of 75 passes for 554 yards and five touchdowns.
The UNM coaching staff, though, always wanted Tuioti as a quarterback. He chose the Lobos over offers from Mountain West Conference rivals Wyoming and Hawaii.
It helped that running backs coach Scott Baumgartner, UNM’s primary recruiter in southern California, is a La Mirada graduate. Ultimately, Tuioti said, his recruiting visit made the decision easy.
“It was the players,” he said, “and mostly, it was a family decision. I talked it over with my parents, and they felt like this was the best option. It was closer (to home) and also, they liked the facility and the surroundings of New Mexico.”
Tuioti, listed at 6 feet and 190 pounds, liked the triple option, as well. He’d seen the offense only on TV before his visit, when the coaches took him into the film room and gave him a closer look.
“I thought it was incredible,” he said.
Last spring and throughout preseason practice, the emphasis in this run-oriented offense has been on the pass — the better to exploit a surprisingly deep and talented receiving corps.
Jordan has shown marked improvement as a passer. Tuioti, meanwhile, has displayed an arm both strong and accurate.
“You see some throws that just wow you a little bit,” Wright said. “He’s very fun to watch. He has a big-time personality, so that makes it even more fun.”
Even while understanding the situation, Tuioti said, he’s preparing for his opportunity — whenever it comes — each day.
“I’d be real comfortable (in a game),” he said. “I feel like every day that we come out to practice, I get more and more familiar with the plays and (reading) the defensive sets.
“Everything’s coming easy to me, so we’ll see how it goes when they call my number.”