Mack 2.0


POSTED: Friday, August 21, 2009

Each season offers the allure of hitting the reset button and starting fresh.

Yet creating an effective system depends largely on applying lessons gleaned over years past—whether through success or failure.

It's a process Greg McMackin has experienced annually over four decades in coaching, each one presenting a unique set of challenges.

“;You're always learning in this game,”; McMackin said.

The Warriors worked through a number of glitches in McMackin's first year at the controls of the Hawaii football program to ultimately emerge with a 7-7 mark. Along the way, they recovered from a 1-3 start to finish tied for second in the Western Athletic Conference and secure a bowl berth.

But they entered the offseason bearing the disappointment of a blowout loss to Notre Dame in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl that left them with a .500 record representative of the roller-coaster nature of the season.

; Those 14 games hold value in the object lessons they provided both McMackin and the returning players. But as this year's team readies for its Sept. 4 launch against Central Arkansas, the Warriors eagerly await the chance to forge their own identity.

“;I expect us to be a lot better football team than we were last year,”; McMackin said. “;This is an unknown team. There are a lot of factors and I've seen these guys work. I've seen these coaches coach, and these players compete, and I believe in them.”;

With the transition year behind, the Warriors' preparations for the new season include two new assistant coaches (offensive line coach Gordy Shaw and special teams coordinator Chris Tormey) and various tweaks to the itinerary leading up to the opener.

“;It's pretty much his camp and how he wants to run it,”; senior center John Estes said. “;Last year it was part how he runs stuff and part how Coach (June) Jones ran stuff. There were little remnants.”;

In crafting this year's version, the Warriors coaching staff entered fall camp with designs on building on the momentum the offense generated during the spring while continuing the process of retooling the defense.

The situation is a turnabout from his first season, when the offense began the year largely devoid of game experience while the defense was stocked with proven performers.




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With his background firmly rooted in defense, McMackin is relying on proven principles while dealing with an unfamiliar situation this year.

“;I've never had this many players gone,”; McMackin said of losing nine starters and several key backups off last year's defense.

“;In '99 when we came here we had a few players to build on and basically got speed on the field,”; he added, alluding to his first year in Manoa as defensive coordinator on Jones' staff. “;It's the same type of system. It's just getting speed on the football field and getting guys who can make plays.”;

While there have been rumblings about the offense having to win shootouts while the defense develops, McMackin bristles at the notion of having one unit cover for the other.

“;We're going to win as a total team,”; McMackin said. “;I fully expect the defense to be a top-notch defense. We have good coaches and we have good players. We just have to get speed on the field and good tacklers and force turnovers.”;

Still, the new version of the Hawaii offense is looking to bear a greater resemblance to the productive units of seasons past.

The Warriors tinkered with the system last year while incorporating new starters at the skill positions. Inexperience at quarterback proved especially vexing as the Warriors dipped to 72nd in the country in total offense after ranking third and first the previous two years.

“;Offensively, we really didn't have too much chemistry,”; Estes said. “;The defense had chemistry and it showed, while we struggled at times last year. It's all about reps and knowing the guy next to you.”;

It's a situation McMackin has vowed to avoid in the future, and having Greg Alexander entrenched as the starter entering camp has given the offense a chance to foster the continuity integral in operating the run-and-shoot.

While McMackin's late summer is trained on preparing the Warriors for the 13 weekends that will define 2009, he's kept close watch on the versions to follow.

Local high school coaches have noted the program's enhanced presence in recruiting, including the creation of a Junior Day to expose prospects to the school, and McMackin continues to target the South Pacific's fertile recruiting grounds.

“;We just have to continue to get better,”; McMackin said. “;Not only in spring ball and fall ball as a football team, but our entire program.”;