Quarry Q & A
‘I'm feeling optimistic'
UH Athletics photo
By Paul Honda
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2002
HONOLULU – Dan Morrison is not the kind of man who is given to hyperbole. In fact, of the dozens and dozens of videotape he receives of quarterbacks nationwide, he filters out four, maybe six for head coach June Jones.
But don't feel too bad for him. The University of Hawaii quarterbacks coach can smell talent rather quickly by looking at tape. And when he's excited about QBs, WRs, RBs, it's always the real deal.
Morrison sat down with RSN for an interview – with video – Thursday afternoon at his office. He had a hand in recruiting quarterbacks, but he also saw plenty of tape of some of UH's recruits from California. Among them were Danny Flanagan and A.J. Martinez.
Learning the Run & Shoot, like a martial art, takes time. Morrison said it took about one year for Nick Rolovich to learn the system. Then Rolo evolved instinctually into a record-breaking passer. It will be similar for incoming recruits.
"I'm feeling optimistic about the kids coming in. It's how fast they're gonna get it, not if they're gonna get it," the former Punahou head coach said.
A factor that will help the new recruits is the relative lack of depth at quarterback right now. With Tim Chang recuperating from wrist surgery, the other passers will get more snaps this spring. The depth chart looks like this.
Inoke Funaki, freshman, 6-0, 180, Kahuku High School
Skinny: Quarterbacked the Red Raiders to two State Championships (2000 & 2001)...named Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-State by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin...named co-Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-State by The Honolulu Advertiser...also an OIA Red Division all-star pick as a senior...passed for 2,446 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushed for 540 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior.
Morrison: "I saw him play a little as a sophomore and then as a junior. I saw that he had the skills to play here. I liked his release and arm strength. It comes out quickly; not a lot of wasted motion. Comes out of his hand with a lot of velocity. And he's accurate.
"Watching him this year, he was very impressive. Intelligent kid, makes good decisions. The added component is that he's a very fine athlete. Has a very good clock in his head.
RSN: "What about early speculation that he might have to change position at the Division I level?"
Morrison: "No. He'll be a quarterback until he proves he can't. He's not just an athlete at quarterback. He's a gifted thrower."
RSN: "He'll leave soon?"
Morrison: "He's going on his mission. We think it'll be a great experience for him. He comes from such a great family."
Ryan Stickler, 6-2, 212, Alta Loma HS
Skinny: Quarterbacked Alta Loma to a 11-1 record as a senior by completing 130-of-165 passes for 1,720 yards and 18 touchdowns...a first-team Mt. Baldy all-league and all-Inland Valley selection...voted team's Most Valuable Player as a senior.
"Ryan is a very strong-armed quarterback who can throw to all levels of the field including the backs out of the backfield and also 50 yards down the field. He is a student of the game and should be a very quick learner of the offensive scheme. He is well-rounded and only worries about wins and losses." - Alta Loma High School Head Coach Tom Mitchell.
Morrison: "I probably get about 80 unsolicited tapes a year, from the Northeast, the South, Canada, all around the country. I'd gone through, I'm guessing now, maybe 35 or 40 straight tapes and this tape was sitting here. It was two or three days, and you start getting to think, I have to get out of this. Maybe this is the one.
"This is one guy he saw who he really liked. We called him. He's one of those unique guys who slips through the cracks; he broke his collarbone in his junior year. Transferred to Alta Loma in his senior year. Even the coach there wasn't too sure who he was. It took him a little while to understand how good this kid was.
"Tom Mitchell (coach) asked the kid where he'd like his tape sent. He'd just watched the Fresno State-Hawaii game (on ESPN), so one of the places he wanted it sent was Hawaii. So we got it, looked at it and really liked him.
"He's like a linebacker and has a really competitive streak in him. Loves to win, loves to succeed. A lot of gifts, natural athlete. Accurate and a strong arm – the two things we look for."
At this point, Morrison is engrossed with the videotape once again. So is the RSN writer.
"His feet are very natural as he drops. Ball comes out very quickly for a high school athlete. He's not just locked into something. He looks up top, one, two, three, to the backside.
"That's what we look for in kids like Tim and Nick and Jason (Whieldon). He can do this, too. For a kid 6-2, 205, he's athletic and he can run. Some quarterbacks, when they slide around the pocket, they aren't effective. But he can move and set his feet properly. He can throw on the run off his back foot. This is the other thing we like, he's got pure arm strength.
"He can roll left, get his feet set, and he's pretty accurate. There are some kids who can do it. It's not a coached thing. He's also accurate deep. He can get it out quickly on the out pattern before the cut is made. I used to tell kids at Punahou, you catch with your eyes and throw with your feet."
Stickler didn't play in the same league with Martinez and Flanagan, but Morrison is convinced, period.
Jeff Rhode #16, redshirt freshman, Eugene, Ore., Churchill High School
Morrison: "He's made progress since he first arrived. He's got real good arm strength and athletic ability as a big guy. He's trying to divide his time between baseball and football. The only time he won't be at spring practice is when baseball travels."
Rhode, some fans will recall, played in a system that featured a Wing T formation. In his senior year, former NFL quarterback Chris Miller joined the Churchill staff, and the 6-foot-5 Rhode began to show signs of tremendous potential as a passer.
Shawn Withy-Allen, #7, senior, Kailua, Hawaii, Kalaheo High School
Morrison: "We'll have him and Shawn get the reps in the spring. He's getting better at absorbing the offense. Physically, probably the most imposing athlete we have. Very intelligent kid."
RSN: "Could these guys start?"
Morrison: "We'd have to wait until spring and the 15 days. It's conceivable."
Jason Whieldon, 6-1, 190, Jr., Saddleback Community College
Skinny: Played two seasons at Saddleback Community College in California...a two-year starter...completed 210 passes for 2,766 yards and 19 touchdowns in 10 games in 2001...finished third in total offense (291.4) among all community colleges in California in 2001...named honorable-mention All-American and academic All-American by J.C. Gridwire...earned first-team all-Mission Conference honors as a sophomore...also named Saddleback's Offensive Player of the Year in 2001.
RSN: A junior college guy like Rolo. How would you compare them?"
Morrison: "He's a great quarterback. Rolo is probably a little bigger, a little more arm strength. Jason is very intelligent and competitive. He's a gifted natural thrower. He'll be talented enough to take the team up and down the field.
"Saddleback ran mostly West Coast and (the coach) tried to implement some of the (UH) offense, so Jason will be somewhat familiar. I think what will help Jason is spring. Without Timmy there, he'll get a lot of reps. The learning curve is steep, but you can never tell how long it'll take for an individual to learn. It took Nick about year.
"It takes time until you become the offense. You can look at it on the board, but you have to be on the field with bullets flying.
"When you see these guys, you see a quarterback, not a guy who is playing quarterback. Every quarterback's different. We look at Jason as someone who's going to be a real good quarterback. How fast he picks it up is not certain, but he will pick it up."
RSN: "You become the offense?"
Morrison: "Nick evolved into those things. He incorporated into himself. He repped it to where it really became instinctive to him. He evolved into those things through his own diligence."
Tim Chang, #14, sophomore (granted medical hardship year), Mililani, Hawaii, Saint Louis High School
Morrison: "It's just a matter of waiting. Everything looks real good and he's been real good at rehabbing it and getting ready. I think he's very confident."
RSN: "Has there been a moment when Tim thought, man, this might really affect my career?"
Morrison: "He's never had any fear factors involved. He stood in and took the hits and got banged around. He's a tough enough kid to be playing back there. I know some people like him to run more, but the clock in his head takes time to develop.
"The times when he waited and waited, he threw down the field for substantial gains. There were times when he could've taken off and run. But when he waited and went through his progressions, there were much more substantial gains. He'll learn and evolve, but you'd rather have a kid who'll wait a while longer and throw the ball 35 yards down the field than one who takes off too soon.
"The clock in a quarterback's head is a real tricky thing to learn. Nick learned when to do it and how to do it, but he's also three or four years older than Timmy is. Sometimes I think people are a little too quick to criticize a kid."
Danny Flanagan, WR, 6-0, 175, Fr., Edison High School (Calif.)
Looking over tape of the Edison star, Morrison is genuinely in awe. One play after another rolled by as the wideout made play after play, using his deceptively explosive speed to beat defenders to the end zone, even when they had angles on him.
Morrison: "In the last game against Long Beach Poly, he caught 11 passes, four touchdowns for 150-something yards. On defense, as a free safety, he had 18 tackles.
"He also runs track. His target in the 110 hurdles is 13.6 to 13.8. That would make him one of the top five high hurdle guys in California. He occasionally runs 100 and he runs it in 10.8.
"He catches everything you throw him. He has a gear to him. He makes all kinds of catches. He's always outrunning people."
At this point, Morrison is watching video of Edison against Servite High School.
"He catches it and the (safety) has an angle. But he accelerates and takes away the angle. That's the kind of thing we look for."
"He's got an ability to find windows. This is a Stutz catch."
Flanagan, running an out route, stretches out for a high passes and hauls it in. Very Stutzmann-like, indeed.
"He never drops a pass."
RSN: "Who else was interested besides San Diego State?"
Morrison: "At the end there was TCU, UTEP, Nevada, Cal, SDSU and us. UCLA was interested, too. When he gets down the middle of the field, this buggah can run, man. His coach kept saying, everybody misjudges his speed."
The Mater Dei video rolls. Flanagan catches a short pass, jukes past two defenders and a defender with an angle down the sideline for a touchdown. The next footage is of Flanagan scoring his four touchdowns against another Cali powerhouse, Long Beach Poly. Those scores came against heralded cornerback Darryl Bing, who signed with USC.
Flanagan originally committed to San Diego State. ""Mom didn't want him to go too far away, and he wanted to stay home and watch his brother stay home. Then SDSU told him they didn't have a scholarship for him," Morrison said.
UH was glad to bring him into the circle. The video shows exactly why the UH staff has open arms for the speedster.
A.J. Martinez, DB, 6-0, 185, Edison High School (Calif.)
Skinny: Played several positions at Edison High School in California, including corner back, half back, wide receiver, place-kicker, punter and as a return specialist...named Back of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register...helped Edison to a 11-1-1 record and conference championship in 2001...also an all-Southern Section all-star and all-CIF pick...named Most Valuable Player of the Sunset League and was co-MVP of the team as a senior...also the starting centerfielder on the Edison baseball team...runs a 4.4 40-yard dash...amassed 11 interceptions in his prep career...an all-West Region pick by Prep Star magazine...also recruiting by Oregon State, San Diego State, and Colorado State.
"A.J. is a great athlete who can play so many positions. He's multi-talented and has big play capabilities. His biggest asset is his ability as a cover corner. He's good in man-to-man coverage and gets the job done." – Edison Head Coach Dan White
Morrison: "Talking to several coaches in Southern California, they said these were the best two players there (Flanagan and Martinez). He had fake punt go for 40 yards. A lot of the coaches feel he may be the best player on that team. Does everything. Blocks punts, punts, plays running back and defensive back. He tore some thumb ligaments and hasn't lifted, but he'll get back up to 185. He can play cornerback, wide receiver, running back, kick return and punt return, and all other special teams. Also recruited by SDSU, Colorado State."
Martinez's ascension to success at running back only happened by chance. "Their running back got hurt and they put him there. His feet are very quick," Morrison said.
2002 University of Hawaii Quarterback Signees
Name Pos Ht Wt Cl Last School Inoke Funaki QB 6-0 180 Fr Kahuku HS Ryan Stickler QB 6-2 212 Fr Alta Loma HS Jason Whieldon* QB 6-1 190 Jr Saddleback Community College
Alta Loma HS
Saddleback Community College
* already enrolled
Skinny info courtesy of UH Athletics