Owens up in the air
about Hula Bowl

WAILEA, Maui » Chad Owens has "cartilage damage to the rib area," and might not play in Saturday's Hula Bowl Maui, the agent for the second-team All-American all-purpose player from Hawaii said last night.

"I think he doesn't need to (play in the game), but it's his decision," said Leo Goeas, the agent. "In my opinion, it's not worth it, he doesn't have a pro contract yet, so he doesn't have to suck it up and play. He has more to lose than gain."

Owens was named the West's offensive star of the game in last Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at San Francisco after he caught eight passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.

Goeas said Owens was hurt when tackled while returning a kickoff early in the game. The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder also absorbed several hard tackles after catching passes.

Owens was expected to arrive on Maui last night, Goeas said. The player was not available for comment.

"Knowing him, once he sees everyone, he'll want to play," Goeas said. "He wants to play. He's a competitor."

Owens is also scheduled to receive the Mosi Tatupu Award in conjunction with the Hula Bowl. The award is given to the top special teams player in the nation.

Solich steps up: Ohio coach Frank Solich took charge of the East team after Georgia's Mark Richt pulled out because of recruiting concerns.

Solich said he found out Sunday morning that he'd be the head coach instead of an assistant.

"Something's come up for Mark, and I know it was a difficult decision for him not to come," said Solich, the former Nebraska head man going into his first year at Ohio.

Richt felt it was important to remain in Athens so he could put some recruits at ease after transition on his coaching staff.

Iowa coaching legend Hayden Fry, here as an AFCA board member, was asked if he would come out of retirement to bring the East staff back to its full complement.

"I'm retired," he said with a laugh. "I guess I could call on one of my 16 ex-assistants who are head coaches now. But I only call them when I want to float a loan."

Footloose: According to scouts and stats, Tim Chang didn't have a great week on the field last week in San Francisco for the East-West Shrine Game.

But Chang looked pretty sharp yesterday at Hula Bowl practice. He is adjusting to the timing of dropping back to pass and hand off rather than operating from the shotgun.

He's also becoming adept at a skill not used often in the pro ranks, according to an expert at it.

"Timmy looked great on those two option plays, didn't he?" West assistant coach Ken Hatfield from Rice, devotee of the wishbone, was the questioner.

West head coach Mike Bellotti of Oregon said Chang's footwork improves by the play, and he likes his arm.

"I think he'll be OK. He's got good feet to begin with, and he's worked hard on his technique," Bellotti said. "He has a live arm. He has what I like to call repetitive accuracy, which is very important. He's not as tall as (the NFL) might like, but you just have to do things to move him around, use his footwork. I've always liked him. We recruited him."

Although some scouts were critical of his skills, Chang said his practices last week "went great."

He said he looks forward to Saturday's game.

"I always wanted to play one last game for the Hawaii fans," he said. "I'm very glad to be here."

Chang went 7-for-20 for 81 yards and an interception in the East-West Shrine Game.

Other locals: UH offensive lineman Uriah Moenoa (Iolani) and defensive lineman Lui Fuga (Waipahu) and Utah offensive lineman Chris Kemoe'atu and Brigham Young safety Aaron Francisco (both Kahuku) all practiced for the West yesterday.

Kemoe'atu did so despite a painful ankle sprain.

"It hurts a lot, especially when I have to put pressure on it or move lateral," he said. "But I have to show the scouts what I can do."

Moenoa pointed out that his college career is ending at the same stadium where it began.

"I started right here, my first game as a freshman was at War Memorial when we played Montana here," Moenoa said.

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