WITH the NFL draft this weekend, the buzz in sports locally is centered on Kaulana Noa and Adrian Klemm, two University of Hawaii offensive tackles, who figure to be selected by at least the fourth round.
What a difference
a system makes
It's quite a turnaround for the Rainbow football program, which hasn't had any player drafted in six years.
Playing on an 0-12 team in 1998, Noa and Klemm then weren't considered NFL caliber.
Their rise in stock and UH's rise from the dead with a 9-4 season had one common link -- the run-and-shoot offensive system installed by first-year coach June Jones.
"I think the system helps. What we do offensively is what the pros want to be able to see when they look at a college film," Jones said. "When you're an offensive lineman they want to know if you can pass protect."
Having a head coach with an NFL background such as Jones certainly has given the Rainbows more exposure.
"No question, I want to help and the NFL people are going to ask," Jones said. "But my credibility has to stay consistent with the NFL people. If a guy can't play, I need to be honest with them and tell them that. If I have a guy who can play, they're going to trust me if that guy goes on and does it in the league."
JONES' Rainbows wind up their spring drills Saturday and still have the 2000 season to play. But he's confident that there will be one Rainbow whose name most definitely will be brought up at next year's NFL draft -- Dee Miller.
"He's the guy next year. He's going to be the most talked about player," Jones said looking over at Miller, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior strong safety, after yesterday's spring practice at Cooke Field.
"We've got a few, but he's special. He runs under 4.4 and he'll hit you. Super kid and leader. He'll play a long time in the National Football League."
Jones feels, quite honestly, that Miller and Nate Jackson, the free safety, are going to play in the NFL one day.
"We have two very, very good safeties. Maybe two as good as I've had any time. NFL, too," Jones said.
"And we've got a couple of receivers who can play at the next level, when it's time for them to be seniors."
Miller made an immediate impact last year after transferring from Northwest Mississippi Community College.
IN the victory over Fresno State, Miller set a school single-game record with three fumble recoveries. He posted 15 tackles in the shutout win over Southern Methodist.
"I was very satisfied, very proud of myself, my team and the coaching staff last year. I did all I could to help my team win ballgames," Miller said.
"Winning the WAC championship is not enough. We want national recognition this year. That's what we're trying to accomplish this year. Time to get in the Top 20 somehow, some way. We're going to make it," he added.
Miller was hesitant about coming here, Jones or no Jones.
"It was scary when I first came here," said Miller, worried that the NFL would lose him in paradise. "Now I'm feeling real good about coming here."
His buddies had ragged him when he committed to Hawaii two years ago.
"Everybody was clowning me. They're all going, like, why you going over there for? Those guys are wearing grass skirts. Stuff like that," Miller said.
"And they were talking down about the program. I told them, we're going to be different, we're going to turn it around. They didn't believe me. But they believed me when I went back home for Christmas break.