Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, April 23, 1999

R A I N B O W _ F O O T B A L L

June Jones
encouraged by UH’s
spring showing

The Rainbows' football team
showed some potential, but it still
lacks speed and depth

By Paul Arnett


There is an old Flip Wilson joke that goes something like this:

A man is setting up a friend for a blind date. He goes on and on about the woman's bubbly personality, her intelligence, the wonderful home she lives in and all her good friends in high places. His close buddy is nodding in all the right spots, waiting for a break in the stream of superlatives, when finally his friend stops to catch his breath.

"Well, how does she look?" he asks.

His friend pauses for a second and replies, "Wait 'til you see her car."

June Jones finds himself in a similar spot after his first spring as Hawaii head football coach. Ask him how the Rainbows are progressing and this is a fairly standard response:

"All spring, we played hard and with enthusiasm," Jones said after last night's final spring practice. An overflow Cooke Field crowd of 2,500 -- complete with the pep band -- attended a controlled scrimmage that had a carnival atmosphere to it.

"The kids believe that the system has a chance to move the ball and the system on defense has a chance to make a big play," Jones said. "A belief in that is real key."

To be sure, winning the hearts and minds of a team that has dropped an NCAA-worst 18 straight games is a goal that must be reached.

Including the current staff, six seniors have played for three head coaches and 30 assistants. There have been five offensive line coaches for Andy Phillips, Adrian Klemm and Kaulana Noa, and just as many offensive coordinators.

If Jones' message hadn't reached the fifth-year guys and senior quarterback Dan Robinson, then this season would have had some growing pains.

"With a coaching change and what not, you kind of wonder what's going to happen," Robinson said. "June is the type of person, he doesn't give you a chance to second-guess.

"When he came in, he really spelled it out for us. He showed us this was how it was going to happen and this is the way we're going to win. We've just got to come together and do it. That's what we've started."

Be that as it may, it takes more than a good personality to win football games.

The Rainbows not only have to believe in themselves after spring ball, they have to fight those demons when doubt creeps in.

They also have to find players willing and able to step up and make a difference in all the right situations. There are several projected starters on the roster who can answer the call. The problem is: There aren't enough of them.

Two of the most glaring problems entering fall camp are lack of speed and depth. Last year, the Rainbows opened the season by playing the eventual No. 4-rated Arizona Wildcats fairly tough. As associate head coach George Lumpkin put it, "That was the one game I saw and no way did I think they would finish 0-12."

Depth proved to be one of the culprits. Like the current team, last year's Rainbows had some solid starters. But when they went out for a breather, they were sorely missed.

This forced the coaching staff to leave the starters in longer than advised, exposing them to fatigue and injuries. For the Michigan game, there might have been 18 defensive players healthy.

Some of those injuries leaked over into spring, forcing Jones to cancel the Green-White game. Without defensive leaders Tony Tuioti, Jeff Ulbrich and Houdini Jackson, Greg McMackin won't know what he really has until a month before the season opener against Southern California.

What he knows now is the unit is fast enough for the defensive designs he has in mind, but not as quick as he wants it to be.

With Daniel Ho-Ching out for last night's final scrimmage and Yaphet Warren's status still not certain, McMackin was forced to move Robert Kemfort and Anthony Smith to linebacker. Don't be surprised if they're starting at those spots this fall.

"Having those two guys there speeds us up pretty quick," McMackin said. "We'll always try to get as fast as we can get."

Another reason McMackin was able to move Smith to linebacker was the safety play of Phil Austin and Nate Jackson. Cornerbacks Quincy LeJay and Shawndell Tucker also had good springs.

"I was real pleased with Shawndell Tucker tonight," Jones said. "I thought he showed up a bunch of times. We moved some guys around on defense. Robert Kemfort was flying around.

"Anthony (Smith) played like a linebacker in nickel and he was really effective. I liked what I saw."

Fullback Avion Weaver also had a good spring. He made the biggest play on offense. The junior broke several tackles on a 59-yard run before being forced out of bounds at the 2 by Tucker.

"I saw it open up and I cut up in it," Weaver said of the hole on the perimeter. "I tried to break an arm tackle and my body tilted on the side like a car on two wheels. I kept my balance. I don't know how."

Lack of speed on offense remains a problem. For the run-and-shoot to be effective, there needs to be a plethora of speedy receivers who can stretch a defense vertically.

"I think . . . we have to get faster everywhere," Jones said. "We took some good steps this spring. Now, we've got to work our butts off over the summer to get to where we want to go this fall."

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