RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Colt Brennan was surrounded by members of the media yesterday prior to the team's Sugar Bowl practice session.
UH QB expects UGA pressure
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NEW ORLEANS » When asked which defense Hawaii faced this season most resembles Georgia, you might think Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan would say Washington, Boise State or even Fresno. But you'd be wrong.
4 days... Hawaii (12-0) vs. Georgia (10-2)
When: Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., HST
Where: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
TV: KHON Ch. 3
Radio: KKEA 1420-AM
Line: Georgia by 7 1/2
The answer? Louisiana Tech.
"LaTech, I don't know if the coaching staff is similar with them or they got a coach from them or something," Brennan said. "But they do have some similarities to LaTech and what LaTech did to us.
"We have an idea what they (the Bulldogs) are going to do, we've just got to wait until game time to really know. One of our biggest advantages is it is tough to defend what we do. If you watch film and what we do to zone -- we kill zone -- so I don't know if they are going to want to drop back.
"I think with the athletes that they have, the speed they have, they're going to try to blitz and bring the pressure and man up and try to knock us off our timing. And just try to rattle us. That would be a good game plan, but we'd be prepared for it."
That was only one of the topics Brennan discussed at yesterday's first practice for next week's Allstate Sugar Bowl between Hawaii and Georgia. The outspoken senior also talked about how excited he is to be playing on a national stage and whether he has the right stuff to impress the NFL scouts here in town for the BCS game.
"I'll get a lot of respect, I think, if I show up and have a good game against Georgia," Brennan said. "It's going to be a war and it's going to be tough. I've been telling everybody that once we get over the fact that this will be the toughest team that we've played, we'll be fine."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii worked out in the New Orleans Saints practice facility at New Orleans yesterday in preparations for Tuesday's game.
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NEW ORLEANS » A big question around here this week is if Hawaii can win the Sugar Bowl. Right with it is another one just as intriguing: Will it be June Jones' last game at UH?
At yesterday's news conference, Jones spoke lovingly of Hawaii and its people. But he would not go as far as to say he will definitely be back to coach the Warriors in 2008 for a 10th season, after leading UH to unprecedented heights, including a No. 10 ranking and the only unbeaten record in the nation.
His current contract expires in the offseason. Jones' agent, Leigh Steinberg, and athletic director Herman Frazier want to come to an agreement quickly, in January or February. Such a pact would presumably result in a substantial increase to Jones' $800,000 per year salary -- a bargain by any measurement in comparisons with colleagues, even many less successful ones.
Frazier said last month work has begun on a multi-year extension. But there is no done deal, no agreement in principle.
"Like other years, Leigh is taking care of it," Jones said yesterday. "When this game (against Georgia on Tuesday) is over I'll take some time off and analyze everything."
With every job opening Jones is linked with, whispers of the possibility of him leaving become a little bit louder. The latest speculation involved UCLA and SMU, neither of which came close to reality.
UH players are aware of the situation, but haven't let it distract them from Sugar Bowl preparations.
"I haven't had a single conversation with another player about whether Coach Jones will be back or not," junior running back David Farmer said. "We understand how it is and he's got to do what he's got to do. If that's the case, then all the more reason to come out firing and make this going out with a bang for Coach.
"I really hope he comes back," Farmer said. "I don't see any reason why he leaves, but I don't know."
Junior slotback Davone Bess is thinking about making himself available for the NFL Draft a year early. If Jones remains at UH, it is more likely he will stay, Bess said.
"I hadn't taken that into consideration," Bess said. "But that would be a good reason for me to consider staying."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
June Jones hasn't indicated whether he will remain as the head coach at Hawaii after his contract expires this season.
It's clear that Jones is the Tony Bennett of Hawaii -- his heart is in Honolulu.
"The thing that keeps me there is the people of Hawaii. That's what brought me to the university and what keeps me there," said Jones, who was a reserve UH quarterback in 1973 and 1974.
"I have had lots of opportunities to leave before and I just really have strong feelings for the people and it's a great place, nothing quite like it. It's a fantastic place."
But frustrations stemming from -- among other things -- a fickle fan base, anemic funding and wanting facilities keep Jones from saying he will definitely sign on the dotted line. But he said he hopes UH's first appearance in a BCS bowl game and the attendant publicity help lengthen the profile of Hawaii -- the football team, and the state.
"I think there are people downtown and in the community that realize what the program means to the state and the Sugar Bowl has done that," Jones said.
"Our whole economy is tourism and how we survive is tourism and you can't buy that (publicity) for Hawaii. And I knew that our football program could be visible nationally by NFL standards."
The football budget of $2.2 million for 10th-ranked Hawaii, is minuscule in comparison to BCS conference teams, like Georgia.
"In reality, if you wanted to do this every year, you need (financial) help," Jones said.
Jones said he receives inquiries about NFL jobs "every year."
With Heisman-finalist quarterback Colt Brennan and between 10 and 12 other starters moving on after the Sugar Bowl, it seems like if Jones were ever to move on to another challenge, this would be it.
But he has said in the past he would never leave for another college job. As for the NFL, where he worked 11 seasons (including head coach stints at Atlanta and San Diego), Jones said he has nothing to prove at the highest level.
"It would have to be a special situation. The right situation. If I never went back to the NFL, I've got no problems," Jones said. "When I had jobs in the NFL, I feel we accomplished a lot of things. We had the No. 1 offense in the National Football League. We had four 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher. I proved the offense works in the National Football League."
"The offense" is the four-receiver run-and-shoot, which Jones and Mouse Davis have tinkered with over the decades and which many teams now -- pro and college -- use versions of as significant parts of their game plans.
Former UH basketball player Artie Wilson is one of Jones' best friends, going back to when they grew up together in Portland, Ore.
"That's a very good question," Wilson replied when asked if he thought Jones might end his UH career at the end of this season. "June loves Hawaii and the kids. I think it would take an unbelievable opportunity."
To keep Jones?
"Not only a good contract, but a better working environment," Wilson said. "Not make everything such a battle. Why should he always have to climb uphill just to get bare essentials?"
Jones was only half-joking yesterday when he complained about a carpet in his office having been installed when Dick Tomey was UH coach in the 1980s.
"The (administration) has got to recognize if he doesn't stay, we're starting over," Wilson said.
Snub no longer dogs Georgia
NEW ORLEANS » If the Georgia Bulldogs are still feeling the bite of being left out of the BCS national championship equation, they didn't show it at yesterday morning's practice at the Superdome.
Preparing for Tuesday's Allstate Sugar Bowl against undefeated Hawaii, the Bulldogs carried a relaxed attitude. Sure, they'd rather be in the big game against Ohio State on Jan. 7. But the way they see it, beating the Warriors on New Year's Day will guarantee them a top-5 preseason ranking when the polls come out in 2008.
"Most definitely we want to win this game for the seniors," freshman running back Knowshon Moreno said. "But we also know if we can put on a good showing on national TV, it will help us with our goals next year. Right now, all we're thinking about is beating Hawaii."
For that to happen, the All-SEC running back has to have a big game. The top freshman in the SEC this season, Moreno rushed for 1,273 yards (5.3 average) and 12 touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for 227 yards and only started six of 12 games this season.
He is part of a youth movement for Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who wasn't pleased with his team's first practice Wednesday night. Like his players, he left behind the disappointment of being passed over by fellow SEC member Louisiana State. Richt's focus is trying to figure a way to stop Hawaii's high-powered offense.
"Our players are just getting the feel of New Orleans," Richt said. "We did practice last night and went relatively late. We do want to enjoy the bowl experience, but we are very serious about playing the University of Hawaii. We know they are a very good football team. They are undefeated and there is a lot to be said for a team that has not been beaten. We know they will be a tremendous challenge for us."
For Georgia to have success against Hawaii's defense, sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford needs to come up big. Stafford completed 180 of 325 passes for 2,348 yards and nine touchdowns. Granted, Moreno will do his fair share on the ground, but to keep Hawaii from stacking eight men in the box on defense, the Dallas native has to complete some big passes downfield out of play-action.
"We're trying to set ourselves up for a good ranking next year," Stafford said. "And definitely try to end this year on a high note. You have to start off the season up there (in the rankings) in preseason to really have a legit chance, unless you run the table.
"(Not being in the national title game) that was probably a one-day deal. Where we're at right now is where we want to be, playing a great Hawaii team. We're excited about playing in the Sugar Bowl, really."
That sentiment was shared on the defensive side of the football as well. Sophomore cornerback Asher Allen preached the company line as fervently as anyone. Not only does he want to come up big against Colt Brennan and his talented receivers, but he also wants to show the country Georgia is a good young team on the rise.
"Most definitely coming out with a big-time win (against Hawaii), obviously people would be looking at us," Allen said.
"A lot of this talent out here is coming right back. Not playing in this year's national championship, we're definitely over that. We have enough on our hands with Hawaii, so we don't have time to worry about that."