For Hawaii football defensive backs, Friday night lights come from study lamps.
On the eve of every game, the defensive backs take a quiz on the coverages, checks and assignments that will be used against the upcoming opponent.
It is not a pass/fail quiz, although a really poor score might jeopardize a starting job.
"It’s a way to know if they’ve studied our game plan," said associate head coach Rich Miano, who coordinates the Warriors’ secondary. "It’s a way to see if they know their alignments and assignments. And it makes you feel better as a coach when you see continual progress with their grades."
Miano, whose Warriors play Charleston Southern today, said there might be a correlation between good play and good study habits.
"To be honest, the guys who are starting usually are the guys who have the best grades," Miano said. "This was a few years back, but the (NFL) teams with the most degrees were the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. Those were the teams that were the most successful at the time. When you are focused, when you are doing the details of your assignments — and anticipating nuances and checks — you’re probably going to be successful. Smart teams win football games."
Miano said the goal is to get players to be "football smart" — do assignments correctly, don’t incur penalties.
"When you turn on the (game) film on Sunday, or whatever day you turn the game film on, it’s the team that made the fewest mistakes that usually wins," Miano said. "If you can get guys who can progressively make fewer and fewer mistakes — where everybody is in their gap, where everybody knows where their drop is — we’ll be a hell of a defense. We’ll win a lot of championships."
Miano said the players receive DVDs with breakdowns of opposing teams, allowing them to study on their own.
Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said he gives the quarterbacks "tip sheets" to review the night before games. He then meets with them to discuss different situations.
"That helps you get a feel of where the quarterbacks are," he said. "It’s more of a review sheet. The quarterbacks are pretty dialed in."
Offensive line coach Gordy Shaw uses a take-out quiz as part of the pregame package he distributes to his players. For home games, the Warriors stay in a Waikiki hotel the night before.
"It’s really not a test; it’s a final preparation mentally for what is about to take place in a game," Shaw said. "I give it to them the night before. We go over it in the morning to catch any final detail that we might not be all on the same page with."
Shaw’s package includes "the winning edges" — a 10- to 15-point list of essential keys — as well as inspirational quotes.
"Most players are like me," Shaw said. "I can’t sleep the night before a game. I think (the package) allows them to visualize what they need to do."