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A pro-set offense can be helpful -- to your defense

By Dave Reardon

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 02:30 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2012

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In the run-and-shoot offense's 13 years in Hawaii, the Warriors were regularly among the nation's leaders in most passing categories and won at least a share of three WAC championships.

The four-receiver scheme spawned a quarterback who held the NCAA career passing yards record, another who was a Heisman Trophy finalist and several others who also captured all-conference honors.

Number of UH alumni from the June Jones-Greg McMackin era to throw a pass in a regular-season NFL game?

Zero.

As UH prepares for its first game under new coach Norm Chow, the Warriors starting quarterback says he'll happily trade big numbers for wins and a better chance at the next level.

"I prefer more balance," Duke transfer Sean Schroeder said after a recent practice, when asked if the run-and-shoot really is the quarterback's dream. "If you have aspirations to play pro football, this is the offense to be in. This type of offense prepares you for football life beyond this."

Sure, NFL teams have formations where they go shotgun and spread the field horizontally as well as vertically.

But they also still use tight ends and two-back sets — positions you rarely, if ever, saw at UH since the end of the 1998 season.

Let's forget that team went 0-12; there are enough patsies on the 2012 schedule that if everything breaks right for the Warriors they might even make it to the Hawaii Bowl.

For that to happen, though, UH must adapt quickly to a different philosophy of offensive football than the returnees are used to.

"Coach Chow has changed the mind-set," junior receiver Billy Ray Stutzmann said. "We run the ball to open up the pass. It used to be pass to set up the run."

Maybe it's not as much fun for receivers, since they don't get as many balls thrown their way. But it's also easier, since they have much fewer in-play reads to make.

Running backs like Joey Iosefa still have plenty of blocking and pass-catching responsibilities. But now, more opportunities to carry the ball. "We only had four running plays last year. Now we have more than 10," he said.

The offense is nothing real fancy or gimmicky. Like most, it borrows a bit from here and there and is constantly changing.

Chow is 66 and has been coaching football more than 40 years. Entering his first season as a college head coach he still believes in a balanced attack, but also in the motto of evolve or die.

"If you stand still you're going backwards," Chow said. "I'm always willing to try to learn. It's a coach's responsibility to magnify the skills of the players you have. If a player can't do what you want to do, you'd better change what you want to do."

He wasn't always that way. Maybe not stubborn, but not as flexible as he has become over the decades of working with talents such as Steve Young, Philip Rivers, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

"I think that's kind of natural for guys just starting out," he said. "I don't know if any one experience changed me. You're always trying to tweak things, based on what your guys can do."

He's widely considered one of football's finest offensive minds of the past 30 years. Now, Norm Chow is home for the stretch run of his career, ready to put that acuity and experience into play for Hawaii.

Don't expect the extreme, don't expect one dimension.

"I'm comfortable being balanced, making sure our opponents have to defend both the run and pass," he said. "And I think I've always had the belief you win games on defense. And you can play great defense by not having your defense on the field."

Spoken like a head coach.

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