Jones says the road
is the key to success

The UH coach is happy
with his team's depth
going into this season

First of two parts

Editor's note: Hawaii football coach June Jones goes into the 2003 season with a 31-20 record in four years, a new multimillion-dollar contract, and several national publications predicting his Warriors will win the Western Athletic Conference championship. With the Aug. 5 opening of training camp on the horizon, Jones answered questions yesterday from Dave Reardon, Kalani Simpson and Jason Kaneshiro of the Star-Bulletin, Robert Kekaula of KITV (Channel 4), and Scott Robbs of KKEA 1420-AM.

Today, Jones' takes on quarterback Tim Chang, the run-and-shoot offense and other topics. Tomorrow: the defense.

Question: What are the biggest keys to success this season?

Answer: Being able to handle the road trips, more than ever. We've got twice as many (six road games) as we had two years ago.

Q: People point to playing the conference contenders at home, but you've got some up-and-comers on the road like San Jose State and Nevada.

A: As far as I'm concerned, when you go on the road from here to play it doesn't matter who you're playing. Being able to handle the road part of it is key. I'm convinced more games are lost than won and you have to be able to handle the conditions and not give it away.

Q: Things will be a little different at home this year. You've been on the new FieldTurf at Aloha Stadium. Is it everything you thought it would be?

A: It'll be the most appreciated thing by every athlete, or football player anyway, in the state.

Q: Is it the best turf in the conference?

A: Some other schools have it. Yeah, by far. It's so much better. It's not even close.

Q: Can you comment on the continual improvement of team depth?

A: We're deeper in all positions than we've probably ever been. With the exception of quarterback. We don't have the experience behind Timmy (Chang). But I would've said the same thing going into last year. But Shawn (Withy-Allen) came in and played pretty well, Jason (Whieldon) came in and played pretty well. We've got a lot of depth on the defensive line. Young kids on the offensive line, so there's a question there, until they play some games. But I don't think there's any reason why they can't do it.

Q: Last year at this time there was a lot of talk about whether Chad Owens would return kicks or not because of his expanded role as a receiver. Have you thought much about how you plan to use him this year?

A: He'll probably do a lot of the same. He ended up returning a lot of kicks last year. We have a lot of depth at receiver. If it helps us and gives us the best chance of winning, he'll be back there.

Q: You lost quite a few seniors who went through a lot of ups and downs over the course of their careers. Who are some guys you see stepping up into leadership roles?

A: That's a good question. Timmy, obviously. Chad's (Owens) shown a great work ethic this summer. Jeremiah Cockheran. I think Nate Ilaoa will step up. Our center, Derek Faavi, by the time it's all said and done, he'll step up. It's natural for the center to take charge. Uriah Moenoa has potential.

Q: Does Timmy have to be a leader for the team to succeed?

A: I think Timmy grew up a lot last year. He can take another step. He has it in him.

Q: Was his turning point beating Fresno State on the road?

A: The fourth-down touchdown pass. That's how champions are built. We know we have to have that to win the game. Cincinnati was another one. Coming off the bench, can't walk, goes in, throws a TD to win the game. Those are the things great ones do, win games. He's proven it to us, he's proven it to himself he's got it. Now he's just got to go to the next level with it.

Q: Will it always be a situation with him and the fans where it's love-hate depending on what he did in the last game?

A: I don't think it's him as much as the position. It's the quarterback, no matter who it is. Remember those same people booed Nick Rolovich right off the field. In a half. They gave him one half. That's the nature of the position, not the person. And if you're going to be a great quarterback you better learn to deal with those days.

Q: Is Tim Chang tougher than people give him credit for?

A: Oh yeah. Physically and mentally. It ain't easy.

Q: How does he rank in understanding your offense?

A: Of all the guys I've had, probably Wade Wilson is the only one ahead in awareness. Wade had a stretch for me in '92 like Rolo (Rolovich) did, but it was at the pro level. He had a great understanding. He could tell you where everyone was. In our offense if you have that you can excel.

Q: Is Timmy the best quarterback in the conference?

A: The kid at Boise State (Ryan Dinwiddie) is pretty good, too.

Q: There's been some talk about adjusting the game plan, at least at the beginning of the season, because of the youth of your offensive line.

A: I say that, but the game dictates if you can or cannot. We'll do what gives us the best chance to win the game. I remember playing Miami of Ohio a couple of years ago and giving a Monday speech about what we had to do to beat them. It was that we would have to run the ball 35 to 40 times because we can't block them. After I saw them go 1-2-3 score, 1-2-3 score, we had the ball one time and couldn't run it and threw 52 straight passes. I don't know if it was 52, but I didn't run it again. The game kind of dictates what you have to do. I remember coming in at halftime and (offensive lineman) Manly Kanoa said, "What about the running?"

Q: What about your dream of a game where you don't run the ball at all?

A: Steve Bartkowski and I still talk about that. We came close last year, but I don't think it's ever going to happen.

If you're changing things all the time, they don't have a chance to get good. They worry about doing it right.

Offensively everyone thinks we're off the wall. Guess what? Ten days into our double-days every play those kids run all year is in. Nothing is added. We do it over and over. Hour after hour. All so they have the chance to be the best they can on game day.

Q: So everyone thinks the run-and-shoot is exotic, but you're saying it's simple?

A: Once it's engrained. It's like, right now, if I walk out there and call a play, because I've got kids who've been here four years, they line up and do it. They can execute it against anything you do against us.

Q: What about when you first got here?

A: When I first got here it was like Chinese. Nobody could understand anything.


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