Hawaii: Run-and-Shoot or Run-and-Run?
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 6, 2011
Hawaii’s next coach will have it easier than Greg McMackin, who replaced a legend in June Jones and suffered from the inevitable comparison. Even if Jones did strike while the iron was hot, leaving for S.M.U. just as Hawaii was entering a bit of a rebuilding phase, McMackin’s four-year tenure can be described in one word: underwhelming. He posted only one winning season, a 10-win finish a season ago, and even if his teams never lost more than seven games in any given year the program’s brief malaise looks worse when held against Hawaii’s high-flying, run-and-shoot days under Jones’ direction.
Most notably, McMackin’s teams failed to recover the momentum lost in Jones’ relatively acrimonious departure, when he and the athletic department bickered over the amount of money and resources dedicated to the football program.
Looking for another steady hand to lead the Hawaii offense, McMackin first turned the job over to Ron Lee, then the receivers coach. Lee was, and is, a Hawaii coaching legend; he was also a wonderful receivers coach. But he wasn’t a great coordinator: his offense combined to score 641 points over two years, or 15 fewer than the school record for points in a single season set by Jones and the Warriors in 2006.
The offense has improved over the last two years, scoring 554 points last fall – the third-most in program history – and another 409 points in 2011. This lends some credence to Hawaii turning the program over to offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich, a former U.H. quarterback who has piloted the offense since 2010 after spending two seasons as Hawaii’s quarterbacks coach.
New blood would be good. A young, energetic coach with Hawaii ties would be even better. Rolovich is a nice choice, should he be a candidate, but the Warriors could probably stand for a total overhaul – or as close to an overhaul as this program would ever consider.
One thing that’s important to consider: Hawaii has to play things differently. The Warriors can’t play things straight, in other words, but must approach football in a similar way to the three service academies, each of which runs an offense that works on technique and precision, not speed and athleticism.
It’s not quite an apropos comparison. Hawaii has also recruited speed, particularly from the California junior college ranks, and has a strong pipeline of offensive linemen rolling in from within the state’s borders. But the recruiting area isn’t wide: Hawaii needs to be quirky, particularly on offense, since playing it safe – doing the same as the competition – would inevitably reveal the holes on the roster.
In short, McMackin’s successor needs to have a trick or two up his sleeve. He also needs to have an offensive game plan, one that can take advantage of Hawaii’s strengths – California speed, big offensive linemen – and alleviate the program’s built-in limitations.
Promoting Rolovich would send one signal: the run-and-shoot is working. It’s fairly easy to argue that point, seeing that even during McMackin’s average tenure the Warriors still went to two bowl games, finished with more wins than losses and remained central to the WAC title hunt.
Another offense that would work at Hawaii is the option. The Warriors ran the option under Bob Wagner, who went 58-49-3 from 1987-95 with much help from his offensive coordinator, Paul Johnson. One of Johnson’s weapons in the early 1990s was quarterback and receiver Ivin Jasper, who eventually joined Johnson as an assistant coach at Georgia Southern before following him to Navy in 2002.
You’ll hear Jasper’s name come up in conversation regarding Hawaii’s open position. Like Rolovich, he’s a young, offense-first coach with ties to the university; these three factors, I believe, will run first and foremost on the university’s must-have checklist. There’s only one difference: Rolovich – or an out-of-house coordinator hire – would continue the program’s passing trend, while Jasper would turn back the clock to the program’s option days.
McMackin was also too grandfatherly – too staid, too predictable, not as hard-charging as his predecessor. For Hawaii, being different extends to the sidelines, where it’s vital that the coach embody the be-different mentality that defines the program at large. At this juncture, getting a little younger would be just what Hawaii needs.
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Tags: Greg McMackin, Hawaii, Ivin Jasper, Navy, Nick Rolovich, Paul Johnson
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