There really is only one way to describe June Jones in relation to his craft: a master.
And the master of offense is doing his thing at Kapolei these days as the offensive coordinator for the only head coach the Hurricanes have ever had — Darren Hernandez.
The two have known each other a long time and have created a fine working relationship. On paper, Jones bringing his handiwork to Kapolei is just what the doctor ordered for a program that has, at times, struggled on that side of the ball. If Kapolei has forged an identity since that inaugural 2002 season, it’s defense.
But before we get into some of the things going through the minds of these two football men and some of the players who were out at a no-pads, walkthrough practice Monday afternoon on the campus field, let’s just get it over with right now: June Jones is honored to be an assistant for Hernandez.
This is how Jones puts it: “I’ve known Darren for quite some time. He’s a real giver, too. He’s just a good man.”
Remember that, folks, especially those who feel like there’s something wrong with, as an example, asking a former U.S. President to become second in command at your McDonald’s franchise. Like it or not, the man who turned around the University of Hawaii and SMU squads and who was the head man for the Atlanta Falcons and the San Diego Chargers is loving it out there on the Leeward coast, and moreover, he belongs.
For starters, let’s get Hernandez’s take on his new offensive coordinator: “For June, it’s all about teaching and learning and I think on this level for him it’s about making them understand the concepts that he’s trying to teach them. He goes at a good pace, but I think it’s good for the kids and they have to learn it.
“We’ve got a lot of time, so we watch film, we chalk talk, we do walk and talk on the field, and it all comes together so there’s a lot of time for us to work on installing the offense and on the fundamentals of what we’re doing.”
Surely, a lot of people are wondering if there will be deviation from the run-and-shoot offenses when the Hurricanes line up in the fall.
“Definitely a lot of elements from what June did previously, no doubt about it,” Hernandez said. “There’s a lot of principals of the run-and-shoot that begins and ends with the four-wide look, and that’s going to be our identity. Of course, there’s wrinkles off of that, through the years the wrinkles that he’s picked up and we’ve learned and we’re adding to the mix. All of that combined is going to be very instrumental for us to take the next step in our offensive evolution.”
The following is from the offensive master himself, who was interviewed after Thursday’s session. (He said a lot of interesting things, so instead of the writer transitioning between paragraphs too much, we’ll just let you, the reader, have at it for the most part).
“I started in high school and I’m in high school again. It’s fun to give back to the kids. Oh yeah, I’m totally enjoying it and look forward to coming out here every day.
“I really like this group of kids. They’re very, very humble and they want to learn. The coaches are great.
“We’ve only been on the field for a week, so they’re learning a lot real fast, but one of the good things I’ve never had is this much time before our first game. The OIA allows us to come on the field and we can teach for two hours a day and even in the pros, you can’t have that time. The opportunity to advance the kids in every which way, the fundamentals of the game and not just throwing and catching, but the pass protection skills that these kids are going to learn are going to give them an opportunity to go to the next level.
“What we do, the offensive line has to be the key and I really think Taulia (Tagovailoa) is going to be a very, very good quarterback. I can already tell that, and so we’ve got to be able to keep them (opposing defenses) off of him. But he’s very smart and he knows where to go with the ball. I can already see that he has the passing skills, so it’s going to be real fun to get it all together.
“As a 14-year old last year, he threw 73 passes in one game, a high school game as a true freshman. That’s pretty incredible. He’s got the talent, and as I told him, the team success has to have priority over personal success and as long as he keeps that focus and stays humble, I think he’s going to be a really good player.
Writer’s transition: Those who have met Taulia Tagovailoa already know Jones will not have any problem with the kid ever having a lack of humility. He and his brother, prized college recruit and Saint Louis starter Tua Tagovailoa, are both humble. In every single conversation this reporter has had with them, they’ve always given the glory to God and not themselves.
More from June Jones:
“I was with the O-line (today), but the past week he was really accurate. A guy’s running full speed, I said, ‘Throw it on his back shoulder and he’d stick it on his back shoulder.’ I told him to throw it 18 inches in front of him and he threw it 18 inches in front.’ The guy can do what you tell him to do.
“(Brother) Tua’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, judging by how many people are looking at him right now (Alabama, USC, UCLA, Auburn and Ole Miss, to name a few). I really like Tua. He really, really had some special games last year. I was at their practice two days a week with him and would watch him. Taulia is not the runner he is, but I think Taulia knows how to get rid of the ball, too, and doesn’t challenge them by running. If he does that, I’ll tell him to get down and get out because you can’t afford to lose the guy. Like I tell Tua: ‘It’s one thing to run, but if it’s not to win the game, you need to learn to get down and get out because this team is counting on you to be able to line up for the next play and you can’t just show how tough you are by running over people.’ ”
Hernandez said Jones spends just as much time with the offensive line as he does with his quarterbacks.
“Offensive line is his first priority,” said Hernandez, who added that many of the players didn’t realize Jones coached in the NFL.
“They’re blown away,” he added.
Said center Donte Keliiholokai: “It’s pretty cool, out here with June Jones. He’s mellower than all the last coaches I’ve had. You gotta move fast, gotta be fast in your head and you gotta be ready for his teaching. It’s a little confusing for me right now because I’m a center now (after starting at guard last year), so I’ve gotta get off the past of our old offense.”
Added Tagovailoa, the sophomore-to-be: “It’s a blessing. I thank God for him (Jones). He’s coming over here and showing us his offense. Doing my studies on him, he made all the not so good teams become great and it’s just exciting to work with him. I’m learning about placement of the football and knowing everyone’s assignment and being a leader and just being mobile. And also being relaxed, that’s the one thing about him. I can make a bad throw, and he’s like, ‘OK next play, next play.’ In football, you can make a bad play and some players will get down on themselves and it will ruin their whole day, but June, he’s relaxed. Next play, next play.”