Thursday, September 30, 1999
With his strong play against
SMU, safety Dee Miller appears to
have picked up the system -- and
taken the whole defense
up a notch
RAINBOW NOTEBOOKBy Paul Arnett
TODAY'S 'BOW NOTEBOOK
Dee Miller wasn't sure if it was his suspect play in the USC game or that he was so far from home, but after that first week of the season, the Hawaii safety was feeling ill.
So much so, the Rainbow coaching staff wasn't sure if the junior college All-America was mentally prepared for the rigors of Division I football.
It forced defensive coordinator Greg McMackin and secondary assistant Rich Miano to rethink the playing time of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound graduate of Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Sure, he was physically gifted. And yes, he had demonstrated his ability to close on the ballcarrier with a quickness that defies description.
But while they let you run around and make plays all over the field in junior college, in Division I, you have to work within the system.
An example is the first offensive play by Eastern Illinois in a game won by the Rainbows, 31-27. Panther quarterback Anthony Buich handed off the football to Jabarey McDavid.
He took two steps toward the line, drawing in safeties Miller and Daniel Ho-Ching like blood brings a shark. Suddenly, McDavid stopped, tossed the ball back to Buich, who lofted a 38-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Phil Taylor, who was Miller's man.
At that point, Miller found himself more on the bench than the field. Granted, he continued to be the special teams artist that draws raves from assistant Dennis McKnight. But until last week's coming-out party, Miller had been conspicuous by his absence in the secondary.
"He made a quantum leap this past Saturday (against SMU)," Miano said of Miller, who made 15 tackles and one interception.
"He played as well as any safety is expected to play. He was aggressive. He was smart. ... And everything we thought about him potentially being a great Division I player, he showed that on the field.
"We had seen that in practice, but I think in the game against USC it was a little bit fast for him. Mentally, he was thinking too much and wasn't using his athleticism. This past game he just went out and played football like it's supposed to be played."
This week, Miller is working exclusively with the No. 1 unit along with Nate Jackson.
Texas-El Paso will likely be more of a challenge than SMU. But Miller believes if he continues to make the same rate of improvement within McMackin's system, it won't matter who Hawaii plays.
"The reason I think I competed better against SMU was I made the play when it came to me," Miller said.
"Making the adjustment from JC to Division I was big. ... I love this system of Coach McMackin's, but it takes time to learn what to do and when to do it."
It also has taken time for Miller to adjust to being 4,500 miles from his Mississippi home. He loves Hawaii and the diversity of the people. But those days of driving from junior college to his home in Horn Lake, Miss., just south of Memphis, Tenn., are gone.
"I'm a long way from home, but I'm getting used to it now," Miller said. "The first week of the season, I was sick as a dog. I didn't play well against USC. I just wanted to go home. But now, I couldn't be happier. This is a wonderful place to live."
UH head coach June Jones wants Miller to continue to cultivate the Aloha spirit. He knew it would take time for Miller to adjust to Hawaii and Division I football, but now that he's managed to do both, Jones doesn't want him wandering too far afield.
"We knew Dee was going to be a really good player for us, but sometimes, the adjustments are difficult," Jones said. "He played like we knew he could in the SMU game. He's going to be a real difference-maker for us."
Hawaii's fortunes in this Saturday's conference game with Texas-El Paso may hinge on how well offensive linemen Kaulana Noa and Manly Kanoa handle defensive end Brian Young.
Offensive line will be
out to contain Young
Young is considered by UTEP head coach Charlie Bailey to be not only the best lineman in the league, but a sure-fire candidate for All-American honors as well. Noa isn't so sure.
"To me, I think he's overrated," Noa said after yesterday morning's workout. "He has a good motor, he doesn't stop. He goes hard every play. I played him tough last year. I didn't give up a sack.
"I don't know, he's good. He's a good player. He gets a lot of pub. I don't know, if we play our game we should be fine. It's all up to us at how we play."
Kanoa agreed. He will see some one-on-one blocking time against the 6-foot-4, 274-pound Young, who already has 44 tackles, three quarterback sacks and seven hurries in four games.
"If they line up with three down linemen, he's usually the left end and Kaulana will have him," Kanoa said. "But when they drop a linebacker in there on the outside, he shifts over the guard."
Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh prefers to talk about how his linemen should perform technique-wise, rather than who's lined up across from them.
"They like to mix Young around at tackle and end," the fiery Cavanaugh said. "If we do what we're supposed to do as far as our pass-set goes, it shouldn't be a problem.
"The biggest thing that happens is the offensive lineman makes a mistake on his set and might drop his head. If we're disciplined in our sets, I don't see any problem against this guy.
"Don't get me wrong, I think he's pretty good. He's a speed-rush guy. But if you quick-set and you get your hands on him, we should be fine."
McMackin feeling betterUH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin has missed the last few days of practice due to a bout with the flu.
Rainbows head coach June Jones expected him to be back at practice today. He said McMackin experienced chest pains, but tests revealed his heart is fine.
"He got to feeling bad after we got back from Dallas," Jones said. "We weren't sure how serious it was, but he's resting and feeling fine."
Injury updateDefensive end Joe Correia's hand will not be in a cast Saturday. Last week, he played with it taped up rather than wear a soft cast.
"It felt fine," Correia said. "It's a lot easier to play with your fingers taped than in a cast."
Fellow defensive end Matt Paul hyperextended his elbow in practice yesterday morning. Jones wasn't sure how serious the injury was, but Paul said he was fine and would be ready to play.
The only two players sidelined are safety Daniel Ho-Ching (shoulder) and slotback Davey deLaura (hamstring). Receiver Attrice Brooks continues to practice this week. He missed significant playing time the last two games with a sprained thumb.
Ground game strugglingJones is not a coach who is all pass and no run. He would like to generate at least 100 yards rushing a game and pass about 65 percent of the time.
He said Monday that the Rainbows had gained 100 yards on the ground at least twice, which isn't technically true. In the NFL, sack yardage is charged to the quarterback's passing numbers, not rushing totals. In college, the opposite is true.
"In my mind, we did rush for 100 yards in a couple of games because I don't consider sack yardage as rushing yards," Jones said. "We aren't running the ball as well as we would like, but we'll get there with more work."
Hawaii is last in the WAC in rushing, averaging 65.5 yards a game.
By Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin
Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin returned to practice this morning, looking a little squeamish, but otherwise fit for duty.
TODAY'S RAINBOW NOTEBOOK
McMackin back after
bout with chest pains
A bout with high blood pressure caused him some chest pains after the team got back from the long trip to Dallas. But if McMackin is worried about his condition, he didn't act like it.
"Actually, I just got back from a much-needed vacation in the Bahamas," McMackin said, then smiled. "It was a bonus for shutting out SMU last week."
In all seriousness, the doctors examined
McMackin's heart to make sure there were no problems. He was given a clean bill of health and will be on the sidelines for Saturday's conference game with Texas-El Paso.
"Anytime something like that happens, it makes you stop and think," the 50-year-old McMackin said. "But I'm fine now. I'm ready to go."
UH head coach June Jones said he was glad
McMackin was back on the field. His primary concern is McMackin's health.
"He got everything checked out and he's fine," Jones said. "But you can never take your health for granted."
Injury updateDefensive lineman Joe Correia and middle linebacker Jeff Ulbrich paid the UH training staff brief visits this morning, but Jones said both were up and ready.
Correia's knee bothered him enough to pack it in ice the final 30 minutes of practice. His hand hasn't healed yet, but he won't be forced to wear a cast this weekend. He'll just tape it up.
"I'll be fine," Correia said. "My knee just gets sore sometimes and I have to put ice on it."
Ulbrich also had the triceps muscle on his right arm packed in ice because of a bone bruise. Like Correia, he missed the last half-hour of practice, but said it wouldn't be a problem in the upcoming game.
Such is not the case for slotback Davey deLaura who said today he wouldn't return until after the bye week because of a nasty hamstring pull. Safety Daniel Ho-Ching also will miss this week's game with UTEP because of a dislocated shoulder.
"Overall, we're in good shape," Jones said. "I didn't even know Jeff was hurt. I'm sure it's not that serious."
Possession time misconceptionMost folks figure the wishbone or the veer offense grind people down with their three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach and the run-and-shoot barely stays on the field long enough to rate a time of possession.
If you aren't going three-and-out in Jones' offense, you have two-play drives of 80 yards, making it difficult for the defense either way, or so the theory goes. But Jones maintains that point of view is not accurate.
"It has always been rumored that this is not a possesion-type offense," Jones said. "But the Houston Oilers were No. 1 in the NFL in time of possession. We were fourth and seventh in Atlanta over the years we ran it at different times.
"We're getting better here every week, but we're certainly not executing the way we need to. We're still having way too many three-and-outs."
That may be why Hawaii is last in the league in time of possession. The Rainbows' offense is averaging only 24:45 on the field. By comparison, Rice's option attack is first at 33:46.
Elam gets creditAfter further review, defensive end Matt Elam was credited with a caused fumble in Hawaii's 20-0 win over SMU.
Some thought Mustangs running back Kris Briggs' fumble near the Hawaii goal line in the first half of last week's conference opener was forced by defensive back Shawndel Tucker. Others believed Quincy LeJay was the man who separated
Briggs from the football.
But after looking at a picture in the Dallas Morning News, it's clear a hand by Elam on an attempted tackle jarred the ball loose.
"I didn't really see him," Elam said. "I just tried to grab him as he went by."
By Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin
Ka Leo O Hawaii