UH backup QB has history of playing


POSTED: Monday, August 10, 2009

If the Hawaii quarterbacks not named Greg Alexander need a reminder of the significance of the backup's job, they need look no further than their meeting room.

Nick Rolovich, now the Warriors' quarterbacks coach, went from starter to backup to starter in his two seasons at Hawaii, tossing his cap and clipboard in 2001 to lead the Warriors to a 9-3 season.

“;The backup job is a hugely important role,”; sophomore Shane Austin said. “;If something happens, you're the guy, and you have to able to lead and keep going and not take a step back. So you have to be ready.”;

A year ago, the battle for the starting job was the focal point of fall camp. This time around, Alexander returns as the incumbent, with a tight competition expected for the No. 2 position on the depth chart.

Austin and junior Brent Rausch began fall camp “;slashed”; on the depth chart behind Alexander, and UH head coach Greg McMackin said the duel to be the next in line could be among the tightest in camp.

“;I expect it to be close; it's been close since spring,”; Rolovich said. “;We need to have a backup quarterback, and in this case we're going to have to have a No. 3 who's not very far behind.

“;With Brent, I've been impressed with his growth and maturity and focus. Shane is continuously accurate, has a good understanding of the system.”;

With a year of practice experience behind them, Rausch and Austin made strides in the spring and were solid on Saturday as the Warriors went through their first practice in pads, with the quarterbacks facing a pass rush for the first time in fall camp.

“;I love it,”; Austin said. “;It gets your heart pumping a little bit and gets the adrenaline going. For the first day, I think we're clicking a little earlier than we thought we would and I think we're in good shape right now.”;

Rausch, who has been running second in the rotation so far, was among the leading contenders for the top job last summer and was named the starter about midway through camp. But Alexander ended up getting the call in the opener, while Rausch played in three games in his sophomore season. This year Rausch is concerning himself more with his grasp on the system more than his grip on his place in the order.

“;I'm not thinking about the competition,”; Rausch said. “;I'm just trying to know the offense, know the plays and throw the ball.”;

Since Dan Robinson went the distance a decade ago, there have been three seasons in which the Warriors had one quarterback start every game—Tim Chang in 2002 and 2004 and Colt Brennan in 2006.

Last year, Alexander was among three quarterbacks to start games, and he solidified his position in the spring. Alexander returns as the lone senior among the seven quarterbacks on the roster, a group that includes three true freshmen in David Graves, Corey Nielsen and Cayman Shutter.

“;It's cool. We're all friends; Coach calls them the young pups,”; Rausch said. “;We're trying to help them out and teach them some stuff.”;

Like Rolovich, Alexander played both the starter and backup roles last year. While he wants the backup to keep pushing Alexander, Rolovich doesn't foresee Alexander slipping back much.

“;It would be very surprising to me if he took his foot off the gas pedal now with the great opportunity he has in front of him,”; Rolovich said.


Lane to redshirt

Senior wide receiver Malcolm Lane will redshirt this season to concentrate on academics.

Lane started 13 games last season and led the team in all-purpose yards with 1,248. He caught 35 passes for 613 yards and six touchdowns. He also ranked among the nation's top kick returners, averaging 26.5 yards per return.

Lane did not attend the first three practices of fall camp.

“;He was one of the two returnees as far as a receiver and a special teams guy,”; UH offensive coordinator and receivers coach Ron Lee said. “;We're moving on and we have some guys who we think will be OK. He wants to get his degree and that's important.”;

Junior Jovonte Taylor has been first in the rotation at right wide receiver, with sophomore Joe Avery behind him. Lee said Greg Salas, a wide receiver last year, will remain at slotback.

McMackin said he met with Lane on Saturday and they mutually agreed on the decision to redshirt, noting that Lane was academically eligible and will remain on scholarship.


Storm watch

McMackin said he is monitoring the progress of Tropical Storm Felicia. Forecasters have warned the storm could bring heavy rains to the islands starting tonight. With the Warriors housed in the athletic department dance studios for camp, McMackin said he's spoken to UH officials about contingency plans.

“;We think we'll be able to practice (today), and then we just have to be flexible,”; McMackin said.

The Warriors are scheduled to practice at 8:30 a.m. today through Saturday, with two-a-days scheduled for Wednesday and Friday.