Waianae's Glenn Freitas isn't the prototype
quarterback for the West Coast offense, but his
field presence and savvy have helped
move him into the top spot.
This is the first in a series of stories that will examine who will play
key roles for the University of Hawaii football team this season.
While Johnny Macon celebrated the naming of University of Hawaii head coach Fred vonAppen and the West Coast offense he brought with him, friends of Glenn Freitas wondered who died.
"It was really a shock," Freitas said. "I felt pretty down. After running an option offense in high school, and coming over here and running an option for four years at UH, it was a big change for me. I wasn't sure anybody would give me a chance."
Macon was far more upbeat about the pending opportunity.
"I was real excited because coming out of high school it was the offense I wanted to be given a shot at," Macon said. "I always felt I had a strong enough arm, and that all I needed was some coaching to develop me into a thrower.
Johnny Macon has the stronger arm, but is a bit on the small side.
"But I was only 5-foot-11, and if you want to get on the race issue, I'm also black. That was a double negative for me in this kind of offense. Nobody really wanted to give me a shot coming out of high school, so I was real excited to get a chance to play with coaches who knew this offense so well."
Coming into spring, it appeared Macon had the inside track. For one, he was only a junior and seemed better suited - athletically at least - to be involved in Phase I of vonAppen's master plan.
Freitas had only one year left, and was an option quarterback born and raised, but in some strange twist of fate, the former Waianae High star has emerged as the leading man.
"I've always admired Glenn," vonAppen said. "He was the guy who had the grimmest scenario when we came in. He hadn't started full-time for the other crew, and he was recruited to run that offense.
"And here we come with this pass offense. His name wasn't mentioned for the first month, and he fought all the way back to get into the loop. I think he acquitted himself beautifully."
Freitas didn't immediately buy into UH offensive coordinator Guy Benjamin's promise last winter that all three returning quarterbacks would get a shot at the starting job in the spring.
Personal matters kept him from attending the first quarterback meeting called by Benjamin. The new assistant coach's reaction is something Freitas won't forget.
"All of a sudden he was wondering, who is this guy Glenn Freitas missing the first meeting," Freitas said, smiling at the memory. "I didn't think I would get a shot.
"But I showed up after that. He talked to me straightforward and he put it straight on the line that I was still in the running for the starting position."
Although Freitas edged into the lead yesterday to be the starting quarterback in the season opener with Boston College, vonAppen made it clear that nothing was etched in stone.
"He clearly has the edge in field presence right now," vonAppen said. "But we still have a lot of practice time to resolve all the other issues.
"Glenn still makes some horrendous plays, but we can't haul him out of the game because he makes a bad play. The best movement is when No. 12 is on the field."
Not to say Macon hasn't had his moments. During two-a-days at Barbers Point this week, he showed off his arm and improved on making his reads.
Lack of size and responding to the pressure of a heated pass rush remain his biggest drawbacks.
Granted, Freitas doesn't possess the arm of Macon, but he has the size Benjamin believes is critical to this offense. He also can run the option that will be intermittently dispersed by Benjamin to keep teams honest.
"Johnny can get the ball out there with better velocity than Glenn, but he's too small to see over his linemen when he drops back in the pocket," Benjamin said. "At 6-2, Glenn can see better. His problem is arm strength. I wish we could blend the two."
Benjamin is not the first coach at Hawaii to lament about such things. During the days of former UH head coaches Dick Tomey and Bob Wagner, quarterback controversies were as predictable as the local elections.
VonAppen has done everything he can to avoid the same pratfall, but if the starter falters, the Monday morning quarterbacks UH is so famous for will be clamoring from the rooftops for a change.
"We're not going to let any of that bother us," vonAppen said. "I don't like revolving quarterbacks. But you don't know how people are going to react until you get them under the lights."
Meanwhile, Macon and Freitas are just trying to get along until the race is completed. Macon realizes he didn't seize the day in the spring and Freitas remains motivated by all his doubters.
"A lot of people never gave me a chance to compete for the top job," Freitas said. "It really motivated me. During the spring and summer people were saying, 'So Glenn, have you caught any balls to get ready to play tight end?'
Macon had a different kind of challenge facing him - expectations from within and without.
"I'm my own worst critic," Macon said. "I expect nothing short of perfection, so I got down on myself too much. I got a little frustrated because of the expectations I put on myself, and from people around me.
"Now, I'm just trying to take things as they come. The coaches are going to have to put somebody in there and let them develop into the job. I just hope it's me."