Thursday, July 20, 2000
for QB derby
The freshman is a local favorite,By Dave Reardon
but he has plenty of competition
in his crusade for the
UH starting job
It could be as suffocating as the late July heat.
But, as an afternoon Manoa mist accompanies a cooling breeze, incoming-University of Hawaii freshman quarterback Timmy Chang shrugs off the hype and goes about his business.
On this day, that means playing catch with a guy he barely knows. They just both happen to be at Cooke Field. One's a quarterback, one's a receiver.
Chang zips crisp short and intermediate passes to Rene Melson, a recent McKinley High School graduate who will play at San Jose City College in the fall.
"He's a cool guy and he's got a good arm," Melson says later of Chang. "His accuracy is excellent."
Chang is among at least a half dozen quarterbacks who will all get a good look in fall camp. With no obvious heir to the departed Dan Robinson, coach June Jones has said the starting spot is wide-open.
But Chang is the one talked about most, whether it be at local watering holes or on cyberspace message boards. He is the state's high school hero and the Dick Butkus national Player of the Year. He is the one transitioning from prep powerhouse St. Louis to UH -- they run very similar offenses, the basics designed and refined by the same coaches.
He is the one who some Yahoo yahoos have already projected into the NFL before a down in college. They won't even let this guy be the second-coming of Garrett Gabriel before enshrining him in the Hall of Fame.
Chang laughs it off. He wants to walk before he runs-and-shoots at the college level.
"I know I'm only 18. I'm young. I'm going to take my collegiate career real slow," he says. "I wouldn't want to rush anything."
That doesn't mean he's cruising this summer.
Jones, whose office window has a great view of Cooke Field, acknowledged a couple of weeks ago that Chang "is busting his ass" in informal workouts.
But, then, so is everybody else.
"Coming into camp it will be a battle from top to bottom," said Shawn Withy-Allen, another of the quarterback candidates. "Everyone's here except Kevin Gilbride, and he was here for the whole first part of the summer."
Chang knows he has a built-in advantage in the similarity of his high school and college offensive systems. The biggest challenge will be the difference in speed.
"It should help out that I'll at least have an idea of what the concepts are. I guess that's a benefit," says Chang, who was on two Prep Bowl and one state championship team.
"I've been watching a lot of film and learning new terminology," he said. "Some of the plays are very similar, but the names are different."
Since St. Louis is practicing at Cooke Field until its new turf is installed, Chang often works out with his old teammates and coaches.
"In some ways I still feel I'm a part of St. Louis," he says. "But I know that I'm moving up to the next level and it's going to be much different."
The biggest questions about Chang concern his ability to throw long accurately and toughness -- mental, since he rarely had to come from behind in high school, and physical, since he rarely threw under duress.
"I'm trying to strengthen my arm, and I feel I need to get a little bigger. I haven't reached that 200 (pound) mark yet," he says.
He's up to 195 from 185 on his 6-foot-2 frame from last fall. Chang says increased weight-training (he lifts five-to-six times a week now) will extend his passing range and build up his physical durability.
"He's a lot bigger now," St. Louis assistant coach Delbert Tengan says. "He's put on some bulk and his arm's stronger."
Chang's fortitude will be tested next month, when the real quarterback derby begins.
Being the local favorite won't matter. Everyone will start even in the coaches' eyes.
"Everybody realizes we're here for the same thing, to win games. We're helping each other learn the reads," Withy-Allen said. "We're more interested in wins than who's playing. Of course, it's going to get competitive in the fall.
"And Timmy's working hard. He realizes it's not going to be handed to him."
Ka Leo O Hawaii