Hawaii's Brennan brings the crowds
Brennan, Johnson focus of WAC media
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SAN JOSE, Calif. » Accomplished and charismatic coaches like June Jones, Pat Hill, Dick Tomey, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price have usually been the stars of the Western Athletic Conference football media preview.
But with Heisman Trophy candidates Colt Brennan and Ian Johnson in the house at the San Jose Hilton, the focus has shifted to the players.
The WAC itself is still glowing in the glory of the Fiesta Bowl. Some Villanova hoops fans may disagree, but the New Year's Day victory by Boise State over Oklahoma might be the biggest college sports upset since Chaminade knocked off Virginia in 1982 at the Blaisdell Arena.
Whatever the Broncos' big win's place is in sports history, it served notice that top-notch teams in so-called mid-major conferences like the WAC can topple the big boys -- any time, any place, as Hill likes to say.
The Star-Bulletin's on-location coverage highlights commissioner Karl Benson's efforts to get the most exposure possible out of the landmark win, but also points out that success complicates the difficult issue of scheduling even more for upper-echelon WAC teams.
Also, a look at Brennan's and defensive tackle Mike Lafaele's interaction with hordes of reporters.
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Hawaii senior Mike Lafaele watched with an amused look yesterday as three reporters sat around an empty chair next to his with the name card of Colt Brennan in front of it. Every now and then a guy wanting to interview the quarterback would wander over to Lafaele, the blue-collar defensive tackle. Many of the questions would be about Brennan. Lafaele didn't mind, providing intelligent and usable quotes about his high-profile teammate, as well as insight on what the defense would be like without Jerry Glanville ("better") when asked.
Brennan was late because his flight to San Jose from Los Angeles, where he is working a camp, was delayed. When he got to the interview room about 15 minutes into the hour-long session, his dance card was full, as he was surrounded by more than a half dozen scribes at a time, sometimes two-deep.
Lafaele might have been Brennan's center this season if things had gone differently; he was recruited to play the position, but was switched to defense when the Warriors ran short of tackles two years ago.
The shift to defense meant Lafaele missed out on the pizza Brennan provides the O-linemen after good games. Not to worry -- Lafaele said his grunt work up front is recognized by its main benefactors.
"Whenever (linebackers) Adam (Leonard) or Solomon (Elimimian) made seven-plus tackles last year, they fed all the D-linemen," Lafaele said. "McDonald's double cheeseburgers. Pretty cool."
Could've been Warriors
Two quarterbacks UH recruited -- Nick Lomax and Taylor Tharp -- are among the contenders for the Boise State starting position, replacing three-year starter Jared Zabransky.
Broncos coach Chris Petersen said they loved the week leading up to the Hawaii game when they were scout team QBs.
"Every quarterback in our system is especially excited and wants to run the scout team. They know they're going to throw the ball a lot and the (scout) receivers are fired up," Petersen said. "Still it's hard to replicate that precision, that timing. Especially when we go to Hawaii on a short week."
Lomax is the son of Neil Lomax, who starred at Portland State after UH coach June Jones and went on to a Pro Bowl NFL career. Tharp is the son of Dick Tharp, the former Colorado athletic director.
Another famous father
Louisiana Tech's new coach, Derek Dooley, said his father, former Georgia coaching legend Vince Dooley, never pushed him into the sport.
"Growing up in his house football was never discussed," said Dooley, who walked on at Virginia and started his coaching career in 1997 as an assistant at SMU. "He was tuned into schoolwork and your behavior, not football."
He said he went to Virginia instead of Georgia to gain his own identity.
"When you grow up in Athens, Ga., in the 1980s you are Vince Dooley's son and that's all you are. Virginia, that was so I could use my first name. I don't regret being his son one bit. I'm proud of it but at same time it's important I earn my way. Seven years with Coach (Nick) Saban at LSU and the Miami Dolphins, I've earned my stripes," said Dooley, 39, as he embarks on his first head coaching job. "(Vince Dooley) was 31 when he was given the head job at Georgia, and (he's) telling me I didn't earn my stripes? Sometimes he forgets that."
The big news was Jones finally played a round of golf at the WAC Media Preview. In previous years, Jones returned to Hawaii before the event's golf outing. One year he didn't come, sending running back coach Wes Suan in his place (Suan golfed). Some cajoling from commissioner Karl Benson (who insists Jones owes him $5 from a bet when they played in 2000 before the coach's car accident, a wager that Jones doesn't remember) and San Jose State coach Dick Tomey finally got Jones out on the course yesterday.
Jones did not bring his own clubs. He also played in his preferred style of sans shoes.