The drama continues at the quarterback position for the University of New Mexico football team.
Lobo senior quarterback Sheriron Jones has been suspended indefinitely from the team for undisclosed reasons, coach Bob Davie said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Davie called it “really disappointing news,” but would not reveal when or why Jones had been suspended
“Regardless of the Sheriron Jones suspension, we knew Sunday that it would be Tevaka (Tuioti starting) at quarterback (this Saturday),” said Davie, whose Lobos (2-5, 0-3 in Mountain West Conference) will try to snap a four-game skid in their homecoming game against Hawaii (4-3, 1-2) on Saturday. “This suspension doesn’t affect the starting quarterback. Obviously it affects now that we have two scholarship quarterbacks (available in Tuioti and Trae Hall).”
Davie said Jones did not have any issues with being pulled from the game in the fourth quarter against Wyoming in favor o f Tuioti last Saturday. Tuioti entered with the Lobos trailing 20-3 and promptly led UNM on a scoring drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aaron Molina.
“(The suspension) has absolutely nothing to do with his conduct as far as football or game related,” Davie said. “I think in fairness, I can say that.”
Davie said the Lobos have a contingency plan for their third quarterback but will not announce that.
For now, Connor Genal, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound freshman from Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is listed behind Hall on the depth chart at quarterback.
Jones, who started seven games last year when the Lobos went 3-9, was beaten out for the starting job in preseason camp by junior college transfer Brandt Hughes. Jones played in the second half of the season opener after Hughes suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Tuioti, who had been the favorite to start since the spring, missed the majority of preseason camp because he was with his family in Long Beach, Calif., where his ill grandfather eventually died.
Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound dual threat, began his college career at Tennessee, where he redshirted and did not see playing time before transferring to Mt. San Jacinto junior college in California. He started three games this season, all losses (Notre Dame, Colorado State, Wyoming). This season, he threw for 500 yards and two touchdowns with seven interceptions, completing 34 of his 76 passes (45%). He ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
Throughout the Lobos’ losing streak, Davie praised Jones for his effort.
Hall, a redshirt freshman, showed such great improvement during this past offseason that Davie mentioned him among those battling to become the starter during preseason camp. But he has seen action in just one game, late in the 66-14 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 14.
“If there becomes a time when information is more pertinent or appropriate I will speak further to (Jones’ suspension),” Davie said.
Tuioti, a dynamic runner and passer, showed signs of playing to his potential in his brief appearance during the Lobos’ 23-10 loss at Wyoming. He threw for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns when he led UNM to a 55-52 win over New Mexico State on Sept. 21, but struggled in games afterward.
“We are a different team when Tevaka is in there,” Davie said. “We become more explosive. He has another opportunity here. I don’t know if we need to replace Tevaka. Tevaka needs to play as well and consistent as Tevaka can play. I think we have a pretty good quarterback. I really do. I think Trae Hall has a chance to be pretty good.”
Tuioti said after Tuesday’s practice he feels “really confident,” after gaining more reps and from his performance against Wyoming.
“When my number was called, I was ready to go,” said Tuioti, a 6-1, 199-pound redshirt sophomore. “Like I told you guys, the coaches, whenever they need me; this time I wasn’t going to back down.”
Tuioti declined to warm up during the game against Colorado State, as he supported Jones to rally the Lobos, Davie said.
Tuioti has a connection to Hawaii. Rainbow Warriors coach Nick Rolovich recruited him out of high school. Tuioti also shared the same private quarterbacks coach, Steve Calhoun, as Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald. The two quarterbacks are from the same area in California.
INJURIES: Offensive lineman Radson Jang suffered a patella tendon tear against Wyoming and is out for the season, Davie said. It is the second straight week that injury was suffered by a Lobo. Last week, running back Javohn Jones had surgery after that injury ended his season.
The two are among six who are out for the season because of injuries. The other four are running back Lawrence “L.O.” Johnson, who suffered a shoulder injury against Notre Dame; Hughes; defensive lineman Aaron Blackwell (knee); and wide receiver Andrew Erickson (knee).
Linebacker Dylan Horton remains out with a high ankle sprain.
Davie said he is hopeful to have safeties Brandon Burton (concussion symptoms) and Jerrick Reed II (knee) available because both practiced on Tuesday after missing the game against Wyoming.