Rolovich will call plays
By Stephen Tsai
As the Hawai'i football team's new offensive play-caller, quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich will think outside the box.
Unlike his predecessor — offensive coordinator Ron Lee, who will be in the coaches' box during games — Rolovich will call the plays from the sideline.
"I've never spent time in the box," Rolovich said. "I think there's a benefit to being on the field. You can tell the players' mindset from there."
Rolovich said he will rely on Lee and running backs coach Brian Smith, who will be in the box during games, to provide observations on opposing team's formations and tendencies. Offensive line coach Gordy Shaw, who will be on the field, will offer input on running plays.
"It's going to be a team effort," head coach Greg McMackin said. "Ron Lee will coordinate the practices (for the offense) and run the offensive meetings. Rolovich will call the plays."
McMackin said Lee, by mutual agreement, decided to focus on coaching the receivers, a job he performed for nine seasons as a member of June Jones' coaching staff. Last year, McMackin's first as UH head coach, graduate assistant Craig Stutzmann was in charge of the receivers. In July, Stutzmann accepted a full-time coaching position at Portland State.
Rolovich, who was a UH quarterback in 2000 and 2001, has deep knowledge of the four-wide offense.
"That's why I hired Rolo (as quarterbacks coach)," McMackin said. "He played quarterback in this system. He knows the offense inside and out."
Rolovich said he had hoped to one day call plays. But the new assignment, he said, "comes with pressure. There's no time to celebrate. I haven't done anything yet."
Rolovich's first goal is to cut down on the Warriors' turnovers and sacks. He has worked extensively on trying to help quarterback Greg Alexander anticipate plays quicker. He also wants to help Alexander throw away passes rather than scramble or absorb sacks.
Of play-calling duties, Rolovich said, "you need to know your opponent, and the ability and potential of your offensive players, and have a feel for that mindset. Hopefully, we can have that killer mindset. A lot of the run-and-shoot is read stuff. It's not set routes, where there's more pressure on play-calling."
Alexander said the 30-year-old Rolovich has created a comfortable bond with the players.
"He's a good coach," Alexander said. "He can communicate with us very well. He played in the system, and that helped a lot."
Smith, who was Rolovich's center and roommate at UH, recalled a determined player.
"Rolo was very confident as a quarterback," Smith said. "He was a leader. I'm sure he'll get Greg (Alexander) to be the same way. Rolo has our full confidence as a staff. He has the players' confidence, too."
Rolovich said he will likely script the first several plays for each game, a tactic Jones used.
"I thought that calmed me as a player knowing what's coming next," Rolovich said.
He also welcomes the strategic battles. Play-calling often is likened to a game of chess.
"I enjoy chess," Rolovich said. "I like it much better than checkers. I think it's more complicated. You have to think steps ahead. In checkers, you can think ahead, but that double jump helps you out. There are no double jumps in football. It's a slow building to that point where you hurt them. Football is like having three or four chess boards out. You're setting up this play to be the big play."
As for having fun ...
"It'll be fun if we win," Rolovich said.