Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Out-of-the-booth thinkers

New UH coordinators Nick Rolovich and Dave Aranda get a better feel for the game by coaching from field level

By Jason Kaneshiro


When it comes to selecting plays, the eyes have it.

While some coordinators prefer watching plays unfold from the lofty perspective in the coaches' booth, Hawaii's Nick Rolovich and Dave Aranda favor the view from the sideline to sense the players' mind-set when signaling in the calls.

"I like the feel," Rolovich said. "I like looking in (the quarterback's) eyes."

Rolovich and Aranda called plays for the Warriors last year, but make their official debuts as Division I coordinators when UH opens the season tomorrow against No. 14 USC at Aloha Stadium.

While Rolovich directed the Warriors' quarterbacks from the sideline the last two years before being promoted to offensive coordinator, Aranda assisted head coach Greg McMackin with defensive calls while perched in the press box.

Now that he's in charge of the defense, Aranda will be on the field, gathering information not readily available upstairs.

"I think it's where you need to be to make the corrections, to see people's eyes and see where they're at with things," said Aranda, previously a defensive coordinator at Delta State.

"It's been a while, but I'm excited. It's a different perspective when you're down (on the sideline), I've always felt you see better when you're down."

While there may be the inevitable nerves that accompany a season opener, having a taste of play-calling duties last year might help them sleep a little better tonight.

"I think it helps me a bunch," Rolovich said yesterday following the Warriors' final full practice before meeting the Trojans. "Going in green right now would be a much bigger challenge."

Part of Rolovich's challenge tomorrow will be matching schemes against USC assistant head coach Monte Kiffin, one of the game's most respected defensive minds, and defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron.

Kiffin, father of Trojans' head coach Lane Kiffin, coached in the NFL for 26 years -- winning a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002 -- and is credited with developing the Tampa cover 2 defense.

The Kiffins spent last season at Tennessee, where the Vols ranked 22nd in the nation in total defense and 12th in pass defense and surrendered just five touchdowns through the air.

Their move to Los Angeles meant doubling up on summer study materials for the UH coaches. They scoured footage of last year's Trojans to evaluate their returning personnel while breaking down Tennessee video to dissect the new staff's schemes, philosophies and tendencies.

But the melding of a new coaching style with the Trojans' on-field talent makes their exact approach to defending UH's four-receiver attack a tough read until the game's opening moments.

"We'll have an idea and get a feel real quickly. In those first few plays we'll get some good information," said Rolovich, who will be receiving input from the booth from receivers coach and run-and-shoot creator Mouse Davis.

"I'm sure (Monte Kiffin has) seen everything. So we're really going to have to execute well. The only thing we can worry about is how we're going to run our routes."

Rolovich also delved into UH's archives, pulling out tapes of UH's games against USC in 2003 and 2005.

"They might not do exactly (the same schemes), but it's good for our guys to see our offense and how they chose to defend it," he said.

Aranda will be in communication with associate head coach/defensive backs coach Rich Miano during the game, and has spent the run-up to the opener studying Lane Kiffin's schemes and his approach to play calling in the West Coast offense.

"USC is a tough team to play for the first game," Aranda said. "They're very multiple. ... They're going to show us a bunch of different looks out of one personnel group, so there's adjustments within that."

With only today's walk-through providing a chance for last-minute polishing, the coaches -- like the players -- are eager to finally test their preparation.

"Our guys are fairly locked in, so it's about time we get it going," Aranda said.

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