Dave Reardon: Timmy Chang going back to an offense that brought UH success

Feb. 8—For the second time in five years, a University of Hawaii football head coach is reaching back to the good old days for something the fans are comfortable with and will get them excited—and will put his team back on the winning track.

For the second time in five years, a University of Hawaii football head coach is reaching back to the good old days for something the fans are comfortable with and will get them excited—and will put his team back on the winning track.

"It's just the ball's just flying around and it feels nice, " Timmy Chang said on Monday, the first day of winter, I mean, spring practice. "It's Hawaii's offense. Some places have a power offense, some places have a running offense. We have a passing offense. Historically that's what we've been good at.

"We'll make sure we try to master it and put ourselves in position to win."

"It, " of course, is a run-and-shoot offense ... the plan of attack UH used 20 years ago when Chang was a quarterback here, breaking all kinds of NCAA passing records and posting winning records all three of his years as the full-time starter.

Now, Hawaii has had two losing seasons in a row, including Chang's first as head coach ; the Warriors went 3-10 in his debut last fall, and are 14-21 the three seasons since Nick Rolovich's departure.

If history can be relied upon to repeat itself twice, Chang is making a good move.

The Warriors hadn't had a winning record in seven years when Rolovich, who was 10-16 his first two seasons as coach, switched to a run-and-shoot (which he had also quarterbacked with success at UH ).

After the move, Rolo's teams went 8-6 in 2018 and 10-5 in 2019, earning him a lucrative job at Washington State.

Rolovich was banking on precedent, too ; he was part of it when June Jones turned UH around with success he sustained for nearly a decade, introducing the four-wideout attack to Manoa after Fred vonAppen's last team went 0-12 in 1998.

Cynics can claim Chang is using what some call a gimmick offense as a public relations gimmick. But the following numbers put a big dent in that assertion :

Since the start of its NCAA Division I membership in 1974, Hawaii has won 298 games, lost 294 and tied six.

UH is 123-77 in years using a version of the run-and-shoot as its offense, and 175-217-6 when it is something else. If we count just the past five years, Hawaii is 32-32 overall—18-11 as a run-and-shoot team, 14-21 when it isn't.

Of course there's no guarantee this trend continues.

But, when we add Bob Wagner's teams, which also worked out of a spread formation, we remember they won more than they lost, too. So, the numbers show three examples in the history of the program that UH is more likely to win than lose when it uses an unconventional style of offense—and the opposite is true when it does not.

We say Chang is installing the run-and-shoot offense. It might seem like a minor point, but it makes more sense to refer to it as a run-and-shoot offense.

Chang's version will be significantly different than Rolovich's, just as Rolo's was not the same as that of June Jones.

Everyone on the family tree adds his own wrinkles to the recipe. The offense's creator, Tiger Ellison, would wonder why there's so much passing if he were alive to see today's version.

"I hope June doesn't talk (Chang ) out of using a tight end, " said Greyson Morgan, one of five players on the spring roster with TE next to their names.

Tight end-or-not is one of the things run-and-shoot coaches don't all agree on anymore, and some like to tinker with it. UH offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker said he likes the plan now that includes one.

In the old days, one of the purists might have said, "Who needs a run game ?" ... or that there will be plenty of gaps to run through because the defense has to devote eight players to cover four receivers.

As magical as the run-and-shoot has been for UH, there is no potion or wand, or exact formula. But there is more work to do than with a conventional offense, and plenty of questions, including these :

Does quarterback Brayden Schager possess the accuracy for this ? Most of us who have watched him believe he is better than the 56 % completion rate he posted in games last year.

Are UH's offensive linemen more nimble than bulky ?

In this era of the transfer portal, will receivers be around long enough to learn the reads so thoroughly they make them without thinking ? If they do, they get open so easily and so consistently that "it's almost like cheating, " former UH star Jason Rivers said.

This style of offense means long Saturday nights for the guys on the other side of the ball—including their teammates. Will the Warriors be deep enough with crazed, possession-stealing defenders ?