Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, March 25, 1999

R A I N B O W _ F O O T B A L L

UH football
team to have a
new look

The offense and defense
will get a makeover from head
coach June Jones

By Paul Arnett


This decade, Hawaii football fans have seen a lot of option, a smidgen of West Coast, a bit of the 4-3 and a touch of the 3-4.

But what will be unveiled next Monday afternoon at Cooke Field are defensive designs and offensive schemes as foreign to the islands as a plateful of grits.

Yesterday afternoon, new defensive coordinator Greg McMackin was patiently explaining what the Rainbows will look like this spring when secondary coach Rich Miano stepped into the room.

Miano has been around more playbooks than most, but even he had to ask McMackin a couple of pointed questions about certain coverages against different offenses the Rainbows may face this fall.

"Rich has played what we're teaching, he understands it and can translate his knowledge to the players," McMackin said.

"What we've been trying to do as a defensive staff is get on the same page and know the packages we're putting in."

McMackin may run a 4-3 base, but it's not a garden-variety alignment. The Rainbows will have two tackles line up either over the guards, or one over the center and the other over a guard.

They are there to hold the point. McMackin will then have two linebackers line up at defensive end, then another three play behind the front four.

If the defensive front is in a strong formation, then the three linebackers will overshift to the weak side. It's really more of a 2-5-4 design.

"Our 4-3 is like what we ran at Miami, Seattle and even Utah," McMackin said. "Our two tackles are our only defensive linemen. Our whole theory on defense is to get speed on the field.

"Our defensive ends are really linebackers with their hands on the ground. We like to have undersized defensive linemen at these spots, so we can get speed coming off the edge. These days, speed is the name of the game.

"At times, our linebackers will be like safeties and our linemen will drop off into zone coverages on pass plays. So, our fans are going to see a little bit of everything."

McMackin already has moved players around to different positions on the field. He really has only a limited idea of what these returning underclassmen can do.

In his mind, spring camp is wide open with every position up for grabs. Granted, he has seen the film, but he doesn't want to rush to judgment.

"I told our coaches that Monday is a starting point," McMackin said. "Everybody should be excited because they have an opportunity to show us what they can do.

"We really don't know anybody. What we want to do is find a core of players and then complement them with the guys that we recruited."

New offensive coordinator Wes Suan is taking a similar approach. Yes, he has a good idea who will be at quarterback. And yes, the running backs and receivers are also in place.

But like McMackin, Suan isn't sure who is going to be able to do what. He needs time to evaluate the players on the practice field before developing a depth chart.

"We're going to be doing a lot of teaching and getting them familiar with the terminology and concepts of this offense," Suan said.

"We want to have some small successes this spring as the guys learn some of the base plays. We want them to have a better understanding of what we want them to do.

"Once they start to feel like they understand, then they don't have to think, but play instinctively. That's where we need to get them by the time we play the spring game."

Suan will spend a lot of time working directly with new head coach June Jones.

Jones will not only handle the quarterbacks, but be a key figure in the play-calling as well. That suits Suan just fine. He believes Jones is a genius in motivation and teaching young players what the run-and-shoot offense is all about.

"June has so much background and different experiences to pass on to the players," Suan said. "This is an offense that has been used in the pros. He knows what will and won't work in certain situations.

"I would think the players would love this offense because it's so wide-open. Offensive linemen learn to pass block, quarterbacks learn how to make progression reads and receivers have a chance to make big plays."

Unlike his coordinators and assistants, Jones has had to spend time away from the field trying to sell tickets, raise money and convince UH fans that this program is headed in the right direction.

He already has had to discipline star running back Charles Tharp, who will miss the spring for breaking a team rule. Rumors abound that Tharp won't be back, but Jones believes otherwise. "When I talked to him last Friday, he said he was coming back," Jones said.

Several players, including down lineman Tony Tuioti and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, will miss spring because of injuries.

"What we will concentrate on is technique and getting them accustomed to the different schemes we will run. I'm looking forward to getting on the practice field and taking the first steps to turning around this program."

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