Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, January 30, 2002


Washington Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier coached Texas quarterback Major Applewhite, left, and Arkansas State running back Jonathan Adams yesterday during Hula Bowl practice at Wailuku, Maui. Spurrier played in the Hula Bowl in 1967 and returned this year as a coach.

Pro prospects
pay attention

NFL hopefuls listen when coaches
Spurrier and Stoops speak up

By Dave Reardon

WAILUKU >> They filed into the War Memorial gymnasium, shaking off the rain. They walked with confidence, sizing each other up. In a way they resembled nervous high school freshmen trying out for the high school junior varsity. Even some of the best players in college football fidgeted a bit as they sat in the bleachers awaiting the coaches -- the coaches who could hopefully help get them into the NFL.

When they arrived, all eyes were on Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Florida's Steve Spurrier as they diagrammed plays on dry-erase boards. Dick Tomey and Joe Taylor received the proper amount of attention and respect, too. But it was clear who the full professors were in this group: the ones with the Division I national championships to their credit. Spurrier is Stoops' assistant on the Aina team -- pretty ironic on two counts, since any offense operated by Spurrier is more likely to move by air than land, and Stoops was Spurrier's defensive coordinator when the Gators were at their apex.

Because of the constant deluge yesterday, Hula Bowl practice was limited to skull sessions and walk-throughs in the gym. It was mostly routine, basic stuff, but the players took it seriously.

Nick Rolovich, the record-setting Hawaii quarterback, was one of the most attentive. He knows how fortunate he is to have learned the run-and-shoot from June Jones and now get a dose of Fun-'n'-Gun from Spurrier. And Spurrier's new job as head coach of the Washington Redskins could help him, too.

"I've only got a week with Spurrier, but I think I'll be able to pick up a lot of techniques," Rolovich said. "That will be nice, to see what he thinks of my skills and how he judges me. He seems like a good guy, he's having fun, smiling and all that stuff."

Spurrier and Jones are from opposite corners of the country and don't have much in common in style. But they are both charismatic, intense leaders. And both are former quarterbacks who love nothing more (except, perhaps, winning a round of golf) than tutoring young quarterbacks and seeing them get it right.

Rolovich could see the similarities.

"They both have a passion for the passing game and the game itself. They like to throw the ball. It's a beautiful thing they've done for the game, what they've both accomplished," Rolovich said. "And I get to pick and choose some from both. More from Coach Jones, of course, and now some from Coach Spurrier. It should help me a lot."

A good performance in the Hula Bowl, and Rolovich could get drafted. A poor one, and he will be lucky to get invited to a camp as a free agent. He hopes to help Spurrier win his last college game.

"I don't think (his competitive nature) is coming out that much yet, but I know he wants to win," Rolovich said. "Maybe we'll see him throw his visor, but whatever, it will be interesting."

UH wide receiver Craig Stutzmann is hoping to get noticed, too. Spurrier has the slotback slated for the "Z," or flanker position.

"That's great for me, because I have to learn all the positions I can to have a chance in the pros. I get a chance to show the scouts I can play outside."

Stutzmann also saw the similarity between Jones and Spurrier.

"They both believe in sticking with their systems and executing," Stutzmann said. "That's why (Spurrier's) head coach of the Redskins and Coach Jones is getting a big raise."

There was something everyone had in common after a second day of flood-like conditions. Everyone wanted to go out and play -- the players on the lush War Memorial Stadium grass, and the coaches on the fairways.

Spurrier didn't stick around for more than a few questions from reporters after practice yesterday. He tried to be cordial, but squirmed away as quickly as he could before the local media could ask him about Rolovich.

A question about golf got him grimacing.

"I hope to play a couple times, if we have time," said Spurrier, whose tee time with Stoops was washed out yesterday morning. "But it ain't gonna happen if this keeps up."

Spurrier doesn't like to lose. Even if it's to the elements.

Hula Bowl

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.
Where: War Memorial Stadium, Maui
Who: Around 100 standout college players, including Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch and 16 with Hawaii ties

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