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CFF Series - Hawaii's Run-N-Shoot offence is going to be BANANAS this season
Hawaii's WR duo is one that you need to know going forward
Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.
- Paul Theroux, novelist
Week Zero kicked off the 2023 season with a bang last Saturday, and among some of the notable performances, were two surprise volume pigs within Hawaii’s WR room. UH’s Steven McBride, and Pofele Ashlock combined for three TDs and over 200 yards receiving. While the Rainbows came up just short vs. SEC opponent Vanderbilt, their offensive explosion served as was a reminder that this Hawaii Run-N-Shoot system can be a potent one for CFF.
But what actually is the Run-N-Shoot offence, and how successful has it been with WR production in the past? Was Saturday’s performance simply just a one off, or are there patterns here to suggest that UH’s WR duo could really be legit for the 2023 season? These are the questions I aim to examine in today’s article, so let’s get right into it.
Timmy Chang’s Run-N-Shoot Offence
Everybody’s probably heard of the ‘Run-N-Shoot’ offence, but few among us actually know what that means. I consulted a trusted source (wikipedia) and found this: The run and shoot offence (also known as Run N' Shoot) is an offensive system which emphasizes receiver motion and on-the-fly adjustments of receivers' routes in response to different defences.
That doesn’t seem that crazy, but it is an offence that is synonymous with Hawaii football. Current Hawaii Head coach Timmy Chang actually ran this system as a player in the mid 2000s, and it’s been employed by various Rainbow coaches over the last 25 years.
As a coach, Chang joined Hawaii last season (2022), after spending five seasons in various capacities with Nevada (WRs coach 2021, 2017; TEs coach 2018-2020). He had the opportunity to call plays in his system as the OC of Div. II program Emory and Henry in 2016. That year, the Wasps had three separate WRs receive over 450 yards and five or more TDs.
Before that he spent two seasons as the OC at Jackson State (2014-15). Unfortunately, I was unable to find reliable stats for these two seasons.
So that’s basically Chang’s coaching career summarized (he got his start as a GA at SMU in 2012). So it’s safe to say — despite its notoriety — he hasn’t actually had much success with this system as a coach.
The Run-N-Shoot system itself, however, has shown to be a successful formula in the past for WR production. In Chang’s last season as the QB of Hawaii (2004), Chad “Mighty Mouse” Owens led the team with 102 receptions for 1290 yards and 17 TDs. The WR2 finished with a solid stat line as well, receiving over 970 yards on 80 catches and seven TDs. An interesting nugget: Owens had four TDs in a single game on two different occasions in 2004, and both times were vs. B1G opponents in Northwestern and Michigan State.
In Chang’s sophomore season (2001), WR Ashley Lelie had the greatest year ever for a UH receiver, grabbing 84 receptions for 1,713 yards and 19 TDs. He set a school record for average receiving yards per game (142.8).
While former NFL’er Davone Bess was there (2005-07), he went over 1000 yards receiving in three straight seasons. I assume the Rainbows were running the same offence or something similar during these seasons.
There are more notable seasons but I think the point has been made. Clearly this system has been a good one as far as WR production is concerned. That’s good to know because there were two notable performances from the WR position in Hawaii’s Week Zero game.
I wish I could tell you which of those early/mid 2000s WRs played where in the offence, but this was before my time. Bess is a smaller player (5’10”), so I assume he operated from the slot. So is Chad Owens—who is listed at 5’8”; he more so than Bess most likely operated from the slot. So it would appear, at least from a cursory look back, that the slot position in this offence has been money in years past.
WRs Steven McBride & Pofele Ashlock coming off huge performances vs. Vandy
There’s no other war to put this, Hawaii’s WR duo of McBride and Ashlock had their way with the Commodores in the Week Zero opener. Many (including myself) thought that this game had the potential to be a competitive one, but few of us probably thought that it would be that competitive.
McBride began his career in 2020 with the Kansas Jayhawks. The former three star out of Louisiana failed to make an impact with his former team, and ultimately transferred to UH this past offseason. It would appear — at least, based off of the first game — that he has made a good choice. Against the Commodores, McBride was targeted 10 times, of which he caught seven of those for 98 yards and two scores (28.8 points in 1-ppr formats).
While many will gravitate towards McBride due to the higher fantasy score, his teammate—Pofele Ashlock, was actually a literal inch from scoring a second TD in this game too (timestamp: 7:55 in the vid below). Ashlock finished with seven catches for 127 yards and a score on nine targets (25.7 points). Ashlock is a redshirt freshman out of Texas, and he did not play in any games in 2022.
Side note: McBride is currently sporting the #7 jersey number, and I have to say — as a former Calvin Turner shareholder — it almost felt like I was watching the former UH playmaker out there on Saturday. McBride appeared to be deployed on the boundary, while Ashlock moved around, but mostly operated out of the slot.
While the yardage and TDs are impressive, the most notable thing to me is the target volume of each of these players. We’ve seen that the Run-N-Shoot offence can be a very successful one for its top WRs in the past, and McBride and Ashlock appeared to be the top go-to guys for QB Braden Schager in this contest. It’s only one game, so we’ll have to wait and see if this usage continues. However, the early signs are promising enough to where I’d recommend taking a chance on either UH WR via waivers if you can.
Something to note is that from watching the extended highlights, it seemed that McBride was on the field more in the first half than Ashlock, who was subbed out occasionally. However, in the second half Ashlock exploded, so perhaps we’ll be seeing him on the field more. Most people will gravitate towards McBride because he topped the team in points, but as mentioned, Ashlock was one inch away from actually leading the team in FPs scored. Had he got into the end zone, his score would have been about 31.7 points to McBride’s 28.8. That being said, what’s important is who’s on the field most and who is getting the targets. McBride appeared to lead in both categories in Week Zero, but we also know some of the Run-N-Shoot’s most productive WRs in the past came through the slot—which favours Ashlock. My opinion is that you can’t go wrong with either given the current information at our disposal, but I’d use this week as an opportunity to target Ashlock while everyone locks in on McBride.
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