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Saturday, May 25, 2024 79° Today's Paper


Distant LaTech mirrors UH

Stephen Tsai

Tonight’s football opponents — Louisiana Tech and host Hawaii — are at each end of the geographically widest college athletic conference in the nation.

As it turns out, the teams are polar twins, sharing the same wide-open offensive philosophy and aggressive defensive schemes. Kickoff is at 5:30 p.m. for the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

The similarities might not be coincidental. LaTech head coach Sonny Dykes and UH’s Greg McMackin were on Mike Leach’s Texas Tech staff for four seasons through 2004. During that stint, Dykes was coaching the receivers, and McMackin was the defensive coordinator.

McMackin said the first team offenses and defenses competed against each other in full-speed drills.

Dykes, who went on to be Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator, said his four-wide passing schemes are drawn from his time under Leach, Hal Mumme at Kentucky and Mike Stoops at Arizona.

"It’s an offense that’s similar to Hawaii’s," Dykes said of the read-and-attack schemes that he implemented this season, his first at LaTech. "It’s different in some ways, but we use four-wide-receiver sets. It’s still a work in progress. We’re not executing our offense as well as (the Warriors) are quite yet, but we’re heading in the right direction."

The first step is finding a quarterback. This summer, Dykes announced that Steven Ensminger, a fifth-year senior who played at Auburn as a freshman, would be the starting quarterback. Ensminger has not played a down this season. Ross Jenkins started the opener, and Colby Cameron was the starter the next three games. Tarik Hakmi, who entered training camp as the No. 4 quarterback, is expected to make his first start today.

"When you make a drastic change, like we did with the spread offense, it takes some time," Dykes said. "Your quarterback has to come along. He’s going through multiple reads. A lot of times in play-action offenses, there’s a little more of, ‘Hey, throw the ball to this guy on this particular route.’ In our offense, all five receivers can catch the ball on any given play. There’s a transition that needs to take place. It takes time to recruit the players you need to run this thing successfully. We’re in the beginning stages of it."

Dykes maintained continuity by retaining most of the defensive staff. The Bulldogs’ best scheme is a 4-2-5, which is similar to what the Warriors call their "45 defense," a formation that utilizes a blitzing nickel back.

"Statistically, we’re not great, but I think our guys have played better," Dykes said. "I’m happy with the way we’re playing on defense right now."

For the Warriors, who went 2-2 during the preconference schedule, "one of our goals is to win the WAC," McMackin said.

The Warriors are relatively healthy, with the return of backup offensive linemen Brett Leonard and Chauncy Winchester-Makainai, and starting right safety Mana Silva.

"The winner of this game is going to be either at the top of the ledger or the bottom of the ledger," McMackin said. "You want to start at the top."


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