UH WARRIOR FOOTBALL
Rausch at ease with role
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It was a brand new day for Brent Rausch.
Having taken control of the Hawaii offense, Rausch reported for his first practice as the Warriors' first-string quarterback yesterday with a sense of ease to go along with greater responsibility.
"It was a lot different today," the sophomore said. "It was a lot of stress off my shoulders."
Rausch was sharp again in the workout, after which head coach Greg McMackin officially announced his ascension to the starting job. He said juniors Inoke Funaki and Greg Alexander will share the backup role for now.
With the most highlighted position battle in fall camp settled, Rausch can turn his attention from competition to preparation with the season opener at Florida now two weeks away.
"I'm just real happy with the way the guys are working, not just the QBs," offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. "Brent's really stepping it up and has a great feel for what we're doing."
The Warriors continue practice this morning and have a day off tomorrow.
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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A junior college teammate correctly predicted Brent Rausch, above, would play for Hawaii.
Brent Rausch was in front of the tube watching Colt Brennan direct the Hawaii offense last fall when a teammate offered a glimpse of the future.
"There was a running back on my team in JC who said, 'You're going there, watch,' " Rausch said, recounting a conversation with College of the Desert teammate Queston Clement. "I was like, 'Dude you're crazy. I wish I'd go there.' "
"He gave me a call about a month ago and said, 'I told you.' He totally called it."
Well, maybe not totally.
Not only did Rausch end up signing with Hawaii, but less than two weeks into his first fall camp, the sophomore was handed the keys to a Warriors offense that has ranked among the nation's top passing attacks over the last nine years.
With a tight competition officially settled Thursday night, Rausch said he felt more relaxed in yesterday morning's practice, though he was still getting used to his new status.
"It's pretty hard to believe," Rausch said.
"Once you get the confidence, everybody's going to follow you. You're the guy with the rock."
UH receiver, to new Warriors starting QB Brent Rausch
Rausch appeared to be the choice following Thursday's practice and head coach Greg McMackin confirmed the sophomore's selection yesterday.
"We've evaluated them very closely and ... he's just been getting better and better," McMackin said. "We started noticing that when other guys would go up then have a bad day, he never went backwards.
"To me a quarterback is just like any other position," the first-year coach added. "We have guys competing at receiver, we have guys competing at all positions. The thing is, here we throw the ball so much that the quarterback position is a focus point. It is on most teams, but here it's really a focus point."
McMackin said he informed the trio of the decision in a meeting Thursday and a backup hadn't been finalized. Juniors Inoke Funaki and Greg Alexander will share that duty for now, though Alexander didn't practice yesterday due to a sore foot.
"I give it to Coach Mack and Coach Ron (Lee), that was probably a tough decision," senior receiver Aaron Bain said. "The past couple of days (Rausch has) really been turning it up, it seems like he's really been catching up with the reads and the plays. I think we can start moving and make greater improvements now that we've got everything set."
Rausch credited Funaki, who is in his third year in the program, for helping him adapt to the Warriors' run-and-shoot system over the summer.
"I can read (the playbook), but Inoke told me, 'The read's going to be there, or the read's going to here,' " Rausch said. "He taught me this offense."
Rausch continued to display his improved comfort in the scheme yesterday in a 7-on-7 red zone drill and in threading several passes downfield in the team period.
"I had a little more confidence, more relaxed," he said. "I was making good throws, a lot better than I did yesterday."
Bain said that self-assurance will be a key in rallying the offense around him.
"I remember the first thing I told him. ... 'Once you get the confidence, everybody's going to follow you. You're the guy with the rock,' " Bain said. "He's in control of the game so once he gets confidence in himself, it's going to spread to everybody else."
With yesterday's announcement, the focus now turns to preparing for a challenging schedule that opens with a date at No. 5 Florida in Gainesville two weeks from today.
As for playing at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (capacity 88,548), Rausch said the biggest crowd he's played in front of was "10 grand in junior college."
But it's a task McMackin is confident Rausch can handle.
"The thing I like about Brent Rausch is he's not afraid of anything," McMackin said.
"I don't think he's going to be scared at all. I think he's going to go in there, be excited, playing the Heisman Trophy guy (Tim Tebow) across from him, playing in the Swamp against a top five team. He's that kind of a guy. He's got it."