How much run and how much pass will there be in the run-and-shoot this year?
Seems like everybody wants a percentage put on it.
That’s kind of silly, don’t you think? Hawaii offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich does.
It is, as they say, a game-time decision — and subject to change even after that.
"It’s going to be whatever it is that’s going to win us the game," said Rolovich, after yesterday morning’s sweltering Warriors workout. "We spend a certain amount of time running and passing in practice, but that doesn’t mean we have to do that in the game."
It’s still a throw-first offense. Head coach Greg McMackin, despite his defensive background, firmly believes in setting up four-wide and letting it fly.
And Mouse Davis is back. Don’t expect a change in overall philosophy with the Aristotle of the aerial attack on staff.
So how does the thinking change when you’ve got a really good running back? You put the ball in his hands, of course — one way or another. Even Davis and June Jones realized that when they had Barry Sanders at Detroit, and again in 2006 at Manoa, with Nate Ilaoa.
The signature offensive play of that team (the squad I think of as the best in UH history; sorry ’92 ‘Bows) was the shovel pass to Ilaoa. For all intents and purposes it’s a draw play, but more devastating … and the stats count as passing instead of running. Ilaoa still managed 990 of UH’s 1,651 yards rushing for a team that went 11-3.
But any theory that a run-and-shoot offense must have a dominant runner to win — at least against WAC defenses — was shot down the next season when Hawaii went 12-1. Kealoha Pilares was tops with 388 of the team’s 944 yards on the ground; the passing game led by the newest Oakland Raider was that crazy good.
Fun fact to ponder: As many UH running backs (Ilaoa and Reagan Mauia) as receivers (Ashley Lelie and Chad Owens) have been drafted since the run-and-shoot was installed here in 1999. And it should be kept in mind that Owens was picked in large part for his skills as a return specialist.
THIS BRINGS us to Alex Green. He ran for 1,037 yards in a good JC league in 2008 and for 453 as the Warriors’ No. 2 back in ’09. At 6 feet 2 and 230 pounds, he’s a complete player.
"When you go out recruiting for a running back, you look for Alex Green," Rolovich said. "And we got him."
Washington almost snagged him first. But one of his classes from Butte (Oroville, Calif.) Community College wasn’t accepted at UDub, and Green was left to choose between Hawaii — which hadn’t produced a 1,000-yard rusher in 17 years — and Liberty, an FCS program.
"You think of the system, you think of how many running backs they use. You think of how many times you’re going to touch the ball," said Green, who was committed to Bowling Green before a late coaching change. "But it was kind of no choice. It was here or Division I-AA in Virginia."
Green adapted to sharing playing time and he learned what being a running back at UH is mostly about: blocking.
"You get a little humbled," running backs coach Brian Smith said. "JC offenses’ protections are not as complex, and there’s not as much emphasis on it. But he understands our protection schemes and has a lot of confidence in them."
Of course, he’d rather run the ball than block. And he will get that opportunity, even in the run-and-shoot. As the Warriors showed in 2006, there’s plenty of football to go around, even on a team loaded with excellent receivers.
"I had to change my mentality," Green said. "(The offense has) made my game more dynamic. The best thing is the coaches are using all the talents we have."
Smith said he is a leader, and Rolovich concurred.
"If Alex Green says something in the huddle, they shut up and listen," the offensive coordinator said.
And, on this team, in this offense, that might be just as valuable as 1,000 rushing yards.