Quizzes come before the big test
ALABAMA has had three or four full-contact scrimmages.
Hawaii's defense has had a million little pop quizzes.
OK, who has the tight end? Who has the back? If he comes this way, what do you do? If they line up in this formation who do you have?
Let's run it again. Let's see that look one more time.
What are you thinking? What do you see? Where do you go?
That's what these final days are about. You have to pass your final exam before you get on that plane.
They have to get it down before they go.
"Most definitely," Hawaii linebacker Solomon Elimimian says.
"And we have it down," he says. "We're just trying to jell as a cohesive unit."
He knows it so well he even has the coach-speak down pat.
Elimimian is the shining light. He's the prodigy. He's the brain.
There wouldn't be a worry if there were 11 41s.
It was Elimimian who passed every pop quiz last season, eventually starting 10 times as a true freshman, making 83 stops. A lot of kids on campus his age were still trying to find the library. Elimimian was reading Jerry Glanville's complicated pro playbook like it was "See Spot Run."
"Forty-one is not a freshman," Glanville would say again and again, always amazed. The kid had the brain of a third-year pro.
If only everyone knew what he knows as the UH defense crams for its first Crimson Tide test.
What do you call? Who do you have? Where do you go?
They all do, he says. Don't worry. They've got it down.
You'd have to say the talent is better on defense -- though as we've learned, we won't know that for sure until the stands start to empty in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.
But if Hawaii is going to have a big season -- more than just slipping into the reserved-spot hometown bowl -- it's going to be up to the defense to make that difference.
It can't be another year of more points allowed than scored. Of giving up almost 5 yards a crack. Of sustained drives and ulcer-inducing third-down breakdowns.
Hawaii's defense had one shining moment last season. San Jose State. It was June Jones' dream scenario -- the defense got the ball back again and again, Hawaii had just enough turnovers to win. A Spartans fumble was caused and recovered inches from the goal line, and UH took that turnover and eventually drove to 7 points the other way. Then, an interception to win it with 48 seconds left -- 45-38. Yet still, somehow, a defensive win.
This year, these guys have to deliver a few more of those.
They have to be in the right places at the right times (with the right attitude, of course).
They have to make their stops.
They have to know their stuff.
And so, in these final hours before takeoff, the quizzes continue.
This stuff isn't easy, of course.
How did Elimimian pick up the offense so quickly as a true frosh?
Um, make that "defense."
(See how complicated this stuff is?)
"I don't think I picked it up quickly," he says, and he is the only one.
"Just staying with my coaches after practice, spending more time with Coach Cal (Lee)," he says.
But isn't this calculus? Everyone says how tough this scheme is. Last year after USC, Glanville just about threw away the whole playbook in order to simplify it for college kids digesting this stuff for the first time.
"It's still complicated, but it's like anything," Elimimian says. "The more you work at it the easier it becomes."
They've had a season, now. Then spring. Then summer, then camp. All those quizzes. They hope to be 11 Elimimians, using any means necessary in order to soak it in.
Chalk talks. Film sessions. Extra study. Running it in practice.
As long as you know the answer when Glanville's gaze turns your way.
Who do you have? What does this mean? What's your key? Where do you go?
"Some guys learn it instantly, like when you draw it up," Elimimian says. "Some guys kind of go through that on the field. The feeling of being in it. Some guys to pick it up, they just have to go through it."
They're getting it, he says. They already have it, he says. They'd better.
Bama's been slamming. Hawaii, cramming.
Grades come out Saturday night.