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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:20 a.m., Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Chang eyed as starting QB for Saturday

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tim Chang practiced this morning, all but guaranteeing that he will start at quarterback in the University of Hawai‘i football team’s season opener against Eastern Illinois Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

Chang had not practiced since Aug. 15, when he suffered a broken right pinkie on his throwing hand. He threw lightly on the sideline last Wednesday, but complained of swelling and pain.

But Chang competed in yesterday’s modified contact drills — every player but the quarterback may be hit — and he declared himself fit for Saturday’s game.

“I’m ready to play,” he said. “Whether it’s on the second, third or fourth team, I’ll be ready to play.”

But UH coach June Jones said that, barring another injury, Chang is expected to start. At first, Jones told reporters that choosing between Chang and Jason Whieldon, a junior college transfer, would be a game-day decision. Later, Jones said, if Chang practices today and continues to play well, he will earn the start.

It is Jones’ long-standing policy that a player does not lose a starting job permanently because of an injury.

Chang said he was nervous about testing his hand. But he played well during several passing drills, closing the two-hour practice by working with the first team.

Chang said he took two aspirin to alleviate the pain, and that a specially made brace enabled him to better grasp the football. The brace, created by athletic trainer Eric Okasaki, is fitted on the ring finger and pinkie, with small padding between the fingers. Chang called the brace a “pinkie pillow,” and said he will wear it during Saturday’s game.

As of now, Jones said, Chang is the starter, with Whieldon the top backup, followed by Shawn Withy-Allen and Jeff Rhode. Freshman Ryan Stickler, who was No. 3 during Chang’s absence, will redshirt this season.