Danny Gonzales closed out the month of May by showcasing his deft ability, keen eyes and some good fortune … on the golf course.
Gonzales, in his third year as the University of New Mexico football head coach, collected his first hole in one on Spyglass Hill’s 152-yard No. 3 at Pebble Beach on May 31.
On the football field, Gonzales and the Lobos believe they gained their ace in the hole at quarterback a few days before Gonzales’ incredible golf shot.
That QB is Justin Holaday, an all-around talent from Fresno City College, who is expected in Albuquerque this week. Holaday, 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, won’t be handed the Lobos’ starting job, but he has the stuff that should keep him in the competition maybe until the final week of August, as Gonzales might have to delay his decision with redshirt sophomore Isaiah Chavez (Rio Rancho), redshirt freshman CJ Montes (Paraclete High School, Lancaster, California), senior Kansas transfer Miles Kendrick and redshirt junior walk-on Connor Genal also in the mix.
Holaday sparkled in his only season for the Rams, passing for 1,821 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions on 133-of-229 passing (58.1%). He led Fresno City to an 8-3 record. The former Lemoore High standout rushed for 391 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a 63-yard TD run.
Holaday’s commitment to the Lobos can be credited to Jamie Christian, UNM’s running backs and special teams coach, who played at Fresno State and remains a viable recruiter in the Central Coast.
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia would have liked Holaday to stay one more year with the Rams, but after Holaday visited UNM, the athletic quarterback wanted to play for the Lobos.
Now, while the Lobos landed Holaday like a hole in one, they came away with a few shanks when attempting to recruit other quarterbacks.
Yet, in the process, the Lobos showed to any objective onlooker their football program is headed in the right direction, an upward trajectory.
Sure, they went 3-9 last year, yet a down year was expected in Gonzales’ second year of rebuilding at his alma mater.
This year, the Lobos will most likely be picked last again in the MWC, but this year could be very different.
It has shown in the recruiting since Gonzales’ hiring, despite the recent misses at quarterback.
The Lobos have difference makers on defense in linebacker Ray Leutele and defensive back Tavian Combs, and on offense with wide receiver Luke Wysong and running back Nate Jones.
Quarterback remains in question, a position that has suffered numerous injuries and changes at position coach. Heath Ridenour, the former Cleveland High coach, is UNM’s third QB coach in as many years.
The same day the Lobos gained Holaday’s commitment, they lost quarterback Jake Jensen to USC. Jensen had committed to UNM.
Jensen, who started his collegiate career at Contra Costa College in California, had only signed a grant-in-aid with the Lobos, who cleared his release when the quarterback wanted to go play for the Trojans.
“That just tells me we’re doing a great job evaluating; we’re recruiting the right guys,” Gonzales said. “I’m not surprised.”
The Lobos also had junior-college standout quarterback General Booty on a visit to UNM and the Lobos offered him a scholarship. Booty, the nephew of former USC quarterback John David Booty, committed to Oklahoma.
The Lobos were also on quarterback Taisun Phommachanh and were about to bring him in for a visit. Phommachanh transferred to Georgia Tech, leaving Clemson.
Jensen’s switch to USC gave Gonzales memories of former Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel, who is now the Tennessee coach.
Back in 1999, when Heupel was coming out of Snow Junior College in Utah, the Lobos were heavily recruiting him.
We had Josh Huepel committed,” said Gonzales, who was an assistant at UNM then. “I was his host. He was committed to UNM. Then on Signing Day, he decided to go to Oklahoma without taking a visit after they offered. Ain’t nothing new.”
Gonzales’ confidence in his staff remains strong, and his belief remains that the Lobos will only improve and soon be in contention for MWC titles.
“As we continue to get better,” he said. “We’ll be able to keep the kids who are heading here and wanting to be here.”