FILE / 2007
Ian Johnson will be playing with a chip on his shoulder this season after suffering through a subpar junior year.
Leonard, Elimimian, good guys off the field
SALT LAKE CITY » The rest of the WAC media learned this week what those who cover Hawaii on a regular basis already knew.
While UH linebackers Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard are ferocious on the field, they are gentlemen off of it.
"I was impressed," Idaho Statesman columnist Brian Murphy said after interviewing both yesterday. "They seem introspective and thoughtful."
Several other reporters had similar comments after meeting them, and those who played golf with them the previous day appreciated their willingness to try something new which is notoriously difficult for beginners.
They were more in their element yesterday, answering questions about UH football, including adjusting to new head coach Greg McMackin.
"He's more like a grandfather," Leonard said when asked if McMackin is a father figure. "A grandfather who can be tough when he has to."
Elimimian wore the ring commemorating UH's WAC championship. He was asked if he ever hesitates to wear it because the Warriors lost 41-10 to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
"You take the good with the bad," he said. "I look at the ring, and it's not the Sugar Bowl, it's the season."
McMackin was a hit, despite a late start to his briefing of print reporters due to running late with the electronic types.
Part of his talk was about the goodwill he's generated toward himself and the UH program since becoming head coach in January after June Jones' departure. He said he knows it can disappear quickly if Ls pile up faster than Ws.
"I'm on my honeymoon," he said. "But this isn't my first luau. I know I haven't played a game yet."
Another classy guy, Boise State running back Ian Johnson
, will be playing angry this year.
"Ian has a chip on his shoulder," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said.
Johnson -- eighth in the Heisman voting after BSU's magical 2006 season -- didn't like the way his injury-plagued 2007 ended. He played sparingly in the Hawaii Bowl loss to Eastern Carolina and not at all in crunch time, despite telling coaches his high ankle sprain was OK.
Then he got a fifth-round evaluation from the NFL. Among other things, the graders questioned his toughness.
"I don't like being perceived as non-durable," said Johnson, who played despite a collapsed lung two years ago.
He also doesn't like his team losing its last two games, and that the Broncos can't say "champs" anymore when they break huddles.
So he is returning for his senior season, and plans to play with a vengeance. Among other marks, Marshall Faulk's WAC record of 57 career rushing touchdowns is within reach; Johnson has 45.
"But the biggest thing is Boise, the city," Johnson said. "I consider it my home. It would be a slap in the face to leave just because I can leave."
Not your average Bear
Fresno State tight end Bear Pascoe
could have opted for the NFL Draft after last season in which the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder caught 45 passes for 552 yards and four touchdowns.
"It wasn't a tough decision. Just sat down with Coach Hill, talked to my parents and decided this isn't the year," Pascoe said. "I'm a semester off my degree, so I'm going to stay, get that. I decided to come back for one more year, play one more season with my teammates and have fun doing it."
He likes the fact that the WAC coaches have predicted Fresno State will win the conference championship.
"I think it's awesome they think we're the team to beat, " Pascoe said. "It just means you're the hunted instead of the hunter. We've just got to take care of business."
Pascoe, who's given first name is McKenna, said there is no exotic story behind his colorful nickname.
"Just a big kid growing up," he said.
New Mexico State's Hal Mumme
, San Jose State's Dick Tomey
and McMackin finished in a three-way tie for the day's best quip by a coach (coincidentally, all jabbed at the big boys).
Mumme on his beefed-up offensive linemen: "It's not good for our team meal bills, but it's good for (quarterback) Chase (Holbrook)."
Tomey on the lack of blocking by the Spartans last year: "A lot of people in our backfield and very few of them were ours."
McMackin on improved meeting-room amenities: "We've now got big-butt chairs for the linemen."