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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Warriors' 'D' looks a lot like Cougars'

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i quarterback Tim Chang fine-tunes his throwing technique in preparation for tomorrow's game against Houston.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Not only are their acronyms synonyms, but the University of Hawai'i and University of Houston football teams speak the same defensive language.

That is because the father of Hawai'i's modern defense — Greg McMackin, now an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers — is the stepfather of Houston's.

Under the guidance of Hawai'i coach June Jones in 1999, McMackin implemented the attacking, zone-blitzing schemes that helped the Warriors earn a share of the Western Athletic Conference title and a victory in the O'ahu Bowl.

McMackin resigned after his only season in Hawai'i to become the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. McMackin then hired Ron Harris as the Red Raiders' defensive line coach. Now Harris is the defensive coordinator of the Houston team that will face the Warriors in tomorrow's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.



"They're familiar with what we do and we're familiar with what they do," Jones said. "We're still running the same stuff Greg put in. It's pretty much the same terminology."

In both defenses, the alignment with six defensive backs is known as the "Okie" package. Both defenses use four down linemen in nickel schemes calling for five defensive backs. Both "zone dog" — dropping the defensive ends into pass coverage while the safeties or cornerbacks blitz.

The defensive philosophy originated with Dom Capers, now head coach of the NFL's Houston Texans. But Jones said, "It's Greg McMackin's package, basically."

Harris and McMackin were on the Utah coaching staff in the early 1990s.

"I worked with Greg for six years," Harris said. "I'm proud to say he was my mentor. Anything I've been able to gain in college coaching is because of Greg McMackin. He's a great guy."

• WHO: University of Houston (7-5) from Conference USA vs. University of Hawai'i (8-5) from the Western Athletic Conference

• WHEN: Tomorrow

• KICK OFF: 3 p.m.

• WHERE: Aloha Stadium

• TICKETS: $15, $25, $40, available at www.etickethawaii.com, Aloha Stadium box office, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (808) 484-1122 or (800) 291-3999, and Stan Sheriff Center, UH lower campus, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (808) 944-2697 (BOWS), phone sales from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


• RADIO: 1420 AM

This season, Harris inherited a Houston defense that operated out of a 4-4 alignment. Harris implemented the 4-3, replacing the second inside linebacker with a faster defensive back. Harris said he consulted with secondary coach Derrick Odum and line coach Oscar Giles to make it "our defense and our package. But the base alignment and the terminology all come from Coach McMackin."

The Cougars' defense, similar to the Warriors', is overshadowed by a high-scoring offense. But Harris said the situation can be "real nice because you know you're in every game because your offense has a chance to score."

Harris shares McMackin's controlled intensity, as well as his mentor's obsession to detail.

"He taught me about preparation and he taught me how to treat people," Harris said. "It's not an x-and-o business, it's a people business. It's not the package you run, but the people running it. You have to take that approach and make it very personal."

Linebacker Lance Everson, who leads the Cougars with 115 tackles, praised Harris as "being like a father to the whole defense. The way he takes us in, the way he embraces us when something goes wrong. He lets us know our mistakes and how to correct them."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.