HONOLULU — Spring Practice officially ended Saturday for the University of Hawaii football team, which means the next official practice session is about three months away.
Of course, that does NOT mean the coaches and players can simply enjoy a three-month vacation. Quite the contrary: In fact, how much the Rainbow Warriors improve physically over the next three months will go a long way toward determining what kind of season they have, and even whether head coach Norm Chow will keep his job for another year.
Recruiting still is important — Chow and his staff must assume they will be around for at least two more seasons and should continue to recruit accordingly. But it is no secret that their jobs hinge on the upcoming 2014 won-loss record. There still is debate about what the “magic number” of victories may be, as guesses range from four to seven, depending also on how competitive the team is when it loses.
Whatever the case, the UH administration, fans and Chow himself reasonably expect improvement from his first two campaigns of 3-9 and 1-11 seasons.
If that is to happen, then this year’s team must be improved physically: bigger, faster, stronger and better conditioned. Especially when considering three of the first four opponents (Washington, Oregon State and Colorado) are from the Pac-12 Conference, which traditionally features bigger, faster, stronger athletes.
The job of the team’s physical improvement falls upon UH strength coach Gary Beemer.
Although he is still in his mid-20s and not much older than the players, Beemer has an impressive resume and seems to be a good fit for the type of athletes he is working with. He was a walk-on defensive tackle himself at Florida, ironically earning Scout Team Player of the Week honors for the team’s preparation resulting in a 56-10 victory over Hawaii in the 2008 season opener.
Unrecruited out of high school, Beemer built himself into a 5-foot-11, 263-pound reserve who earned so much respect from his teammates and then-Florida head coach Urban Meyer that Meyer inserted him into the backfield and allowed him to score a touchdown in the waning moments of the Gators’ 2010 Senior Day victory over Appalachian State.
Florida also nominated Beemer for the national Rudy Award, which annually honors a student-athlete who demonstrates exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment — in the spirit of famous former Notre Dame walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger.
Beemer holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida in applied physiology and kinesiology, served as a graduate assistant in strength and conditioning and helped train Gator football alumni in preparation for NFL tryouts. He later spent a year as an intern for the Minnesota Vikings, where he aided in the design and implementation of the team’s strength program and worked directly with players to maximize their physical performance.
That is what Beemer has done for the Rainbow Warriors since joining the UH staff last May, and his job will arguably be the most critical one for the football program over the next three months.
Once he designs the summer workout program for each position and player, however, it is up to each individual to put in the time and carry it out.
There was hope early last season when it appeared the Rainbow Warriors held their own against a supposedly physically superior USC team, and also in the first half at Oregon State.
But that hope started to dissipate over the next few weeks as teams like Nevada, Fresno State, San Jose State and UNLV ran up and down the field on Hawaii. We now know that some of that was due to poor schemes and fundamentals, and that the lack of consistent pass protection and a running threat was mainly due to the absence of workhorse running back Joey Iosefa.
But a bigger, faster, stronger team overall certainly doesn’t hurt, and the raw talent Beemer has to work with now should theoretically be better suited for Chow’s system, since the majority of players were recruited and signed by Chow.
By nature, history and geography, some Hawaii players will always be undersized, and maybe a step or half-a-step slower compared to the four or five-star recruits who end up in the Pac-12. But that does not mean some of that gap cannot be closed by virtue of an effective strength and conditioning program that maximizes each player’s potential.
Basketball coaches say that championship TEAMS are built from November to March, but championship PLAYERS are built from April to October.
The same concept would apply to this year’s UH football team, although we may not be talking about championships.
Let’s just say the Rainbow Warriors’ performance as a TEAM against Washington in the Aug. 30 season opener will largely depend on their preparation from Aug. 1 to Aug. 29.
But the individual PLAYER’S performance that afternoon may largely depend on how they prepare and improve physically between now and August.
With Chow’s job likely on the line this fall, the impact of these offseason workouts will be the first step in determining whether he will coach UH beyond 2014.