Much has changed since New Year’s Day
It was not a perfect season for the University of Hawaii.
The Georgia Bulldogs saw to that in a statement-making football game that made you realize just how special Boise State's win over Oklahoma was in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. For those walking through the bowels of the Superdome a half-hour after the 41-10 New Year's Day surprise, there was no room for doubt. Georgia was better.
Much has transpired at the Manoa campus in those 90 days hence; more hirings and firings than at the Los Angeles Times. But now that everyone is sitting comfortably behind their new desks, here's a friendly reminder: Hawaii is only 153 days removed from an afternoon in Gainesville, Fla. There, the Warriors will play a more explosive team in the Florida Gators than the one they faced the first day of the year in the Big Easy.
You can bet Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow already has new head coach Greg McMackin and defensive coordinator Cal Lee up all night studying film of this new prototype quarterback born to run Urban Meyer's spread-option offense. Tebow can throw, run, throw on the run, scramble and shed tacklers like Earl Campbell once did in the wishbone all those years ago.
One of Herman Frazier's lasting legacies will be a 2008 schedule that's the antithesis of last year's. There are three BCS and six bowl teams awaiting this rebuilding football program.
McMackin wouldn't mind having Colt Brennan or Mike Lafaele around to lead the parade into The Swamp -- a home-field advantage similar to that of the gladiators when they held sway at the Coliseum -- but he won't. Tebow doesn't have June Jones to kick around for labeling him a system quarterback, but he does give Hawaii an opening-day test not unlike the recent quizzes with USC.
So where does that leave McMackin and his reshuffled staff? Well, in a tough situation, quite frankly. What would be a fair curtain call for a team that finished 12-1 and among the top 20 teams in the nation? Depends on which side of the microphone you're standing.
With the opening of spring drills only a day away, there are some stiff challenges sitting squarely on McMackin's desk. He needs a new quarterback, four wideouts, better play at offensive tackle, two cornerbacks and three down linemen to help maintain a formidable front.
There are leadership issues in the locker room, not to mention the transition in the coaching ranks. There are plenty of familiar faces, but most are doing something they weren't a year ago. And if you don't think that matters, then imagine coming into work one day to find the boss is gone. And so is his boss. It can be unsettling.
That's why this spring is so much more important than last year's. As much as McMackin may be like Jones, he's also his own coach -- a product of tough-minded men of the bygone era of Paul "Bear" Bryant and Darrell Royal. McMackin may be smiling at you, offering his hand in friendship. But check his eyes, just to make sure.
And it's not as if the veteran coach is starting from scratch. There are plenty of players, assistants and support staff coming back who had key roles in the best season in school history. Jones honored a promise in 1999 with the best about-face in NCAA history and fulfilled another by leading Hawaii to New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl eight years after.
When looking back, it's obvious Jones was leaving here no matter what. McMackin was called in to be the heir apparent if he so chose. He did.
And now the fun begins.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org