STAR-BULLETIN FILE / APRIL 2007
After being dropped from the UH team last season, running back Mario Cox is now right behind the top two on the depth chart.
McMackin gives Cox a shot
The junior running back was dismissed by Jones last season
Mario Cox benefited greatly from the Hawaii football coaching change.
When June Jones left for SMU in January, Cox wasn't on the team. Jones had dismissed Cox during the 2007 season for not adhering to team rules.
Now, the junior running back is getting another chance to make use of his considerable talent.
New head coach Greg McMackin met with Cox several weeks ago, and decided to reinstate him.
"I believe in giving everybody a chance and Mario had a rough road last year, but we're taking a look at him, and he's done everything I've asked him," McMackin said. "I've been really pleased with him and we just have to see where he fits in. When I knew him before he got hurt last year (hamstring), he had a great attitude."
After the first two spring practices, it's so far, so good for Cox, who was also suspended and reinstated two years ago for not meeting team academic standards, and then doing so.
He's still about 5 pounds heavier than he wants to play at, but at 5-feet-11 and 230 Cox looks smooth in the running back drills.
"Around 225's my ideal weight. That's what I'll try to be at for the season," he said.
His latest reinstatement is good timing for another reason: UH plans to emphasize the ground game more this season, and what running back doesn't like that?
STAR-BULLETIN FILE / OCTOBER 2007
Offensive coordinator Ron Lee says of Cox, "He needs to be a little quicker. But he'll get a shot this spring."
"We're working on more agility and ball security, more drills to prepare us for carrying the ball in the game," Cox said. "We've got some formations that look more like we'll be running the ball, so that's very exciting."
Cox started a game as a true freshman in 2005, but played sparingly in a total of eight. He redshirted in 2006 while suspended. He regained his spot on the roster last year, and played in five games as a backup before the dismissal in October, rushing four times for 9 yards.
Daniel Libre and Leon Wright-Jackson entered spring camp Monday as the two top running backs. Cox and Dave Farmer, who started last year, are right behind them. Offensive coordinator Ron Lee said they -- along with four others listed at running back -- will all get opportunities to show they deserve to play.
"He'll get a shot (today, in the first full-gear practice). He'll do more with the first team," Lee said of Cox. "He needs to be a little quicker. But he'll get a shot this spring."
McMackin said new running backs coach Alex Gerke is a good match for Cox because he is a disciplinarian.
"I like Mario. Whatever's happened in the past, to me it's a clean slate," Gerke said. "Sometimes I have to make sure he's not off somewhere else and keeping it tuned in, but he's done a great job for me these first couple days and I'm excited to see him get into a little bit better shape, and watch him work this system.
"No question he's got a ton of talent. The game's played 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, so mentally if we keep Mario tuned in and he pays attention to detail I think he'll be in great shape."
Cox said he won't squander the opportunity this time.
"Everyone's starting off fresh with the new system. After the evaluation, we'll have the best guy out there. So I'm just going to try to make sure I do everything right. What I'm supposed to do, so I don't have any bad evaluations after practice," Cox said yesterday, while walking quickly to get ready for a morning class after practice.
"Basically (McMackin) said I was going to start off with a clean slate. Now that he's the head coach he's going to do his evaluation. Three years into it, I should be mature now."