The run and shoot offense, which became synonymous with the University of Hawaii football program two decades ago when June Jones was coaching the team, made a full-fledged return on Monday morning when the Rainbow Warriors kicked off spring practice.
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Hawaii went 3-10 in Timmy Chang‘s first season as head coach in 2022. The Rainbow Warriors did not run the run and shoot in 2022 under new offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker, although certain run and shoot concepts were installed during the team’s bye week after the team had started 1-4.
Starting in 2023, the Rainbow Warriors will fully be a run and shoot team under Chang, who ran the offense himself as a quarterback for UH from 2000 to 2004, becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading passer in the process until he was surpassed by Houston’s Case Keenum in 2011.
Chang will also serve as the de facto offensive coordinator, as he’s set to call plays and work with the quarterbacks as well along with offensive analyst Cade Socha. On Monday, he spent the majority of the two hours working with the team’s six quarterbacks as they got their bearings running a new system on a full-time basis.
“It’s just a system of belief,” Chang said following Monday’s practice. “Hey, we’re gonna do things a little different and out of the box than others and that’s what it is — it’s a mindset and we get receivers than can run, that are shifty, that are quick. Our culture, it builds it, it ingrains it and they believe in it. It’s a systematic thing with high schools and now people run it and it’s been successful. I’m a product of it that’s been successful playing in it and now coaching it. Might as well use it, ah?”
The run and shoot is mainly predicated on quarterbacks and receivers reading defenses and running option routes based off of what is seen. It requires chemistry, repetition and lots of preparation.
“The receivers need to know the coverages. It’s hard to know where they’re going,” said Saint Louis head coach and former UH offensive coordinator Ron Lee, who employs the run and shoot offense. “That was the key when they ran it at UH. Pre-snap reads are critical. Practice is important. You gotta watch a lot of film.”
At its best, the run and shoot also lends itself to a successful run game when defenses need to be kept honest.
Hawaii has not fully operated under the run and shoot since 2019, back when Nick Rolovich was its head coach. Hawaii’s 2023 offensive staff does not have any holdovers from 2019. The direction of the offense and its future appears to hinge on Chang’s ability to teach it and pass it down.
Hawaii’s quarterbacks spent Monday’s two-hour session practicing a variety of short, intermediate and deep throws, as well as live 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 repititions.
“It feels good. It feels good to see those guys throw the ball out there. It feels good to call the same plays and the terminology and see the structure of practice,” Chang said. “The ball’s just flying around and it feels nice. It’s Hawaii’s offense. Some places have a power offense. Some places have a running offense. But we have a passing offense and that’s the run and shoot and that’s what we’re known for. Historically, that’s what we’ve been really good at so we’ll make sure we try to master it and put ourselves in position to win.”
The first quarterback to get a crack at running the run and shoot in a game this fall appears to be Brayden Schager, a junior who spent portions of his first two seasons starting games for the ‘Bows. Despite that, he has yet to enter a college season as a starter.
Schager also spent part of his winter break working with former UH quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison in the Dallas area, where Morrison helped Schager work on some run and shoot concepts and drills conducive to running the offense.
“You’ve seen it work real well at Hawaii,” Schager said of the team’s new base offense. “The resume in the past with Timmy and Colt and Cole McDonald and all those other guys have really done an amazing job running the run and shoot here and it just seems to be an offense that works here really well and that’s something I can buy into and believe and trust these coaches which I think everyone’s done a good job of doing because they’ve seen what the results can produce when we run this offense the right way.”
Schager will continue to work closely with Chang as the two aim to form a tandem that brings nostalgia back to UH fans. Spring ball runs through March 3, but the work doesn’t stop after that.
“That’s something I strive for,” Schager says of wanting to make a name for himself in the run and shoot. “Just having those guys to look up to, they were legends here and that’s just something that I can only hope to be: Up there with them someday, just get to that level and that’s just something I dream of is being one of the ones like Timmy and Colt and those guys so I can strive for that every day when I’m working.”