Jones wants

UH’s football coach feels the
program is well on its way to
being a consistent success

Hawaii football fall camp starts tomorrow. UH coach June Jones fielded wide-ranging questions from Star-Bulletin reporter Dave Reardon and columnist Kalani Simpson and KKEA 1420-AM UH football broadcast team Bobby Curran and Robert Kekaula on Thursday. This is the first of two parts, which covers the state of the program. See tomorrow's Star-Bulletin for the second part, which covers players and positions.

Q: Overall, are you where you thought you'd be five years ago?

A: Yes, with the idea of winning consistently. From that standpoint. The year we won 10, we won four games on the last play of the game. The other two we lost, we should've won. It could've been 12-0, it could've been 6-6. That's football. Winning your close games is the difference between feeling good about yourself and not feeling good about yourself in the offseason.

Q: It seems with three winning seasons in a row, three bowl games in five years, you've attained a certain level. How do you define the next level and how do you get there?

A: I don't really set goals like that. We set season goals. The team goals we kind of keep in our locker room. Personally, I said when I got here I wanted to create a tradition of winning. We never had a history of winning every season if you really look at it. There were some good years, then they went up and down, up and around, all over the place. We wanted to create our identity of consistently winning. To do that you got to keep winning.

Q: Some good strides were made on the road in 2002. Last year, a difficult road schedule resulted in two wins and three losses. Will this team bounce back and play well on the road again?

A: I hope so. I don't think we won on the road for a lot of years before we got here. We're close to 50 percent the past five years. I'll bet you the games we've won from 1999-2003, you can probably go back 30 years or so and it's probably the same number. Winning on the road is hard. Going to Boise and Fresno, that's like going to Nebraska, Tuscaloosa and Gainesville. I don't care what you say, it's hard to go in there and play those teams, for whatever reason.

Q: How much influence do you have on the scheduling?

A: Herman's (athletic director Frazier) doing it, but he calls me on this, that and the other thing. We're pretty close to signing some pretty good games.

It does look like Alabama does want to play us there. Florida wants to play us in Florida, which I told Herman we would do. We talked to the AD, Jeremy Foley, and a member of their board of trustees.

Q: Would you need to have a bye before a game at Florida?

A: We'd probably do like we usually do for a game at LaTech, take a couple of days in Houston to rest and get ready, then fly in and out. Like we do at Fresno, just show up for the game.

Q: Will you still practice at the University of Houston before the Rice game?

A: No, and not because of the fight (between Hawaii and Houston players after the Hawaii Bowl), but because last year when we played LaTech, it was better practicing in Houston near the airport at a high school stadium.

Q: Do you like the two early byes this year?

A: I always prefer to have one late. Because we have people hurt. But I can't control that. I like the one in front of Rice, obviously, because it gives us time to prepare for the wishbone.

Q: How disruptive to your practice routine are the Friday night games?

A: You know, for me, for us, I don't think they're distracting at all. Because we do the same thing. It's not like we're game-planning, putting in a whole new offense to play Fresno State. But Fresno, getting ready for us, they've got one less day. They are game-planning, putting things in to stop the run-and-shoot. If we were playing against the wishbone on a short week, they've got the advantage. We're not a hodge-podge like it was before, run the "I" this week, run the wishbone next week, drop back and throw. It gives you a chance to be more consistent doing the same thing. I think shorter weeks benefit us offensively. I thought that way even more in the NFL, when we played on Sunday and then Thanksgiving Day. Two days to get ready, and we had everything ready. We didn't lose many Thursday games.

Q: Did you get any sense at the WAC meetings, talking to the other coaches, who might be stronger than you thought going in?

A: I think Rice is going to be better than a lot of people think they are. They're a little like us in that they have experience in doing what they do. They've got the quarterback coming back, and another guy, and they're pretty good. They won four of their last five last year. I kind of think San Jose is going to be better because they're going to run the ball more and they've got a huge offensive line and they hired Keith Burns, a very energetic defensive coach. They open up at Stanford, a couple hard games. They'll know early. Louisiana Tech, they've got a lot of players coming back.

Q: Was Tulsa a one-year deal?

A: They're very well-coached, but I don't think they're as good as their record last year. But they thought they were, and that's half the battle.

Q: When you took over, the cupboard was bare. You knew what kind of players you needed to build a championship team. Are you at the level you wanted to be at when you first started?

A: I knew that doing what we do offensively it would attract skill players. I felt like receivers would come, which is happening. Some of them just show up. The hardest spots are O-line, D-line, quarterback and corners. This year we probably have more corners than before who can play. We have more offensive linemen than can play. We have a lot of defensive linemen, but we're young. The only thing I can say is I wish we were more mature at the defensive line. On offensive line, we're like, they're all game-ready, we've got depth, we're in pretty good shape. Got to be in good shape there to do anything. On the D-line, we're good athletically, but we've got to show we can do it on Saturday night. I don't care how big you are.

To keep a winning program going, you've got to keep getting good young players.



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