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Full-Court Press

By Paul Arnett

Friday, April 14, 2000

From rock bottom
to rock solid

ADRIAN Klemm didn't remove his helmet and throw it as far as he could the way Dallas Cowboys great Bob Lilly did after Jim O'Brien's field goal tumbled through the uprights to give Baltimore the win in Super Bowl V. But it was close.

Michigan had just finished off the University of Hawaii's regrettable 0-12 season with a 48-17 thumping that left Klemm angry and frustrated. He yanked off his helmet, checked to see if he left his ears inside and denounced what the Rainbows were trying to get done offensively.

"Michigan is not that much better than we are," Klemm said as he left the field. "But if you watch what they do on offense, it's the same thing they've been running for years.

"Their offensive linemen aren't running option plays one series and pass plays the next. They do the same basic things from their freshmen to their senior seasons. And it makes all the difference."

No one could have known how prophetic those words would turn out to be. Even though he brazenly predicted the Rainbows would contend for the Western Athletic Conference title a month before the start of the 1999 season, Klemm's insight on that sad November night was even more dead solid perfect.

As soon as head coach June Jones installed the run-and-shoot a year ago, Klemm and his fellow linemen knew the Rainbows' fortunes were about to change.

"It didn't take long for us to see that this offense could lead us to the National Football League," said Klemm, who has an excellent chance of being selected during the first three rounds of tomorrow's NFL draft. "We loved it."

KLEMM and fellow offensive lineman Kaulana Noa figure to be the biggest beneficiaries of Jones' system. Both will be drafted over the weekend, something that might not have happened had Jones not replaced former UH head coach Fred vonAppen.

He brought in assistant coach Mike Cavanaugh from the San Diego Chargers who instantly bonded with the big men up front. Noa and Klemm blossomed in the system. So did center Dustin Owen and guard Andy Phillips. Both could be signed as NFL free agents.

"Dustin isn't worried about it and Andy might even get selected in the later rounds, but I see both of those guys signing with NFL teams," Cavanaugh said. "I look for Adrian to go in the second round and Noa between the second and the fourth."

IT has been six years since Taase Faumui was drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. No Rainbow has heard his name called during the draft or seen it scroll along the bottom of a television screen since.

That will change this weekend as Klemm, Noa and middle linebacker Jeff Ulbrich figure to be drafted. If Phillips happens to sneak in there late, this year could be a relative bonanza for the Rainbows.

Certainly, you have to give credit to vonAppen and his staff for recruiting one of the better senior classes in recent memory. As many as seven players could wind up receiving professional tryouts.

But in the final analysis, you have to wonder how many would have made it had Jones and his staff not come along to lead the Rainbows to one of the more improbable turnarounds in NCAA history.

Klemm would have put the number at zero had you asked him after that loss to Michigan. And it would have been hard to argue with him.

Now, with Jones safely on board, that's a number that will no longer be synonymous with Hawaii and the NFL draft.

Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.

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