Hawaii associate head coach Rich Miano remembers the first time he saw the future of football.
It was 2007, and former UH football teammate Kent Untermann called to ask Miano to turn to ESPN — now — to watch Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.
Miano recalled Untermann gushing: "You’ve got to see this quarterback. He’s better than Vince Young."
In the Wolf Pack’s pistol offense — in which the quarterback and running back are aligned in a straight line out of a four-receiver set — Kaepernick passed for 243 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 177 yards and two scores.
"He was perfect for that offense," Miano said.
Three years later, Kaepernick is among the nation’s most versatile quarterbacks, the pistol is the latest rage, and the 6-0 Wolf Pack are ranked 19th entering tonight’s game against UH at Aloha Stadium.
"Look how many colleges are studying that offense," Miano said. "I imagine it’s going to the National Football League. It presents a lot of problems."
* through yesterday
The pistol, designed by Nevada coach Chris Ault five years ago, spreads defenses with the wide formation. Running back Vai Taua, centrally located 7 yards from the line of scrimmage, can run to either side. Kaepernick also can run, pitch or pass.
"A lot of people are trying to emulate that offense," Miano said. "But what they don’t have is Avatar. Kaepernick is the perfect guy. He has phenomenal speed and phenomenal ability to create big plays. He has a whip of an arm to gun it in there. He’s gotten better as a passer every year."
Kaepernick admits to running 40 yards in about 4.6 seconds. But his long strides make him difficult to contain.
He also has a strong enough arm to roll to his left and throw across the field to the right side.
He can easily throw a football 65 yards. As a high school baseball pitcher who tossed two no-hitters and drew interest from pro scouts, his fastball was clocked at about 94 mph.
As the legend goes, Kaepernick was offered a football scholarship when a Nevada coach watched him dominate a prep basketball game. He reportedly was suffering from a fever that night.
In UH meetings and video sessions this week, Kaepernick was labeled as "the X factor."
"We’ve been showing clips where people have had him leveraged out, they’ve got him contained, but he breaks contain," UH defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said.
In layman’s terms: Just when you think Kaepernick is trapped, he is not.
"His strides are unreal, ridiculous," UH linebacker Corey Paredes said. "And he can throw, too. We have to contain him and tackle him."
For the Warriors, this is an opportunity to make a statement. In the preseason polls, the Warriors were predicted to finish in the bottom third of the nine-team Western Athletic Conference. The Warriors are atop the standings, at 2-0. Nevada and third-ranked Boise State are 1-0.
"We have to continue to play well and prove people wrong," UH defensive tackle Kaniela Tuipulotu said. "We take (Nevada) as another team. We know they’re very good, but anybody can beat anybody on a given day. We have to go out there and play ball and see what happens."