Commentary

Sugar Bowl beating and lingering questions have Brennan on a mission

The last time Colt Brennan was on a football field he and his team were beaten like a drum. He's hoping to prove to scouts at the Senior Bowl that he's better than that.

Updated: January 22, 2008, 8:48 PM ET
By Chris Low | ESPN.com

MOBILE, Ala. -- When last seen on a football field, Colt Brennan was being scraped off the artificial turf at the Louisiana Superdome.

The only thing more pronounced than Georgia's 41-10 thrashing of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl was Brennan's inability to get anything going offensively in that game.

[+] EnlargeColt Brennan
Dan Anderson for ESPN.comCan Colt Brennan take a snap under center and drop back quickly? He hopes to show scouts he can.
He was sacked eight times, hounded into three interceptions and generally made to look like a quarterback who was out of his league by a defense that was bigger, faster and more physical than anything Brennan had seen during his record-setting torrent through the WAC.

"We weren't ready for that. I wasn't ready for that," said Brennan, who broke 31 NCAA records at Hawaii, including most career touchdown passes (131).

Now comes the question that will dog Brennan until he proves otherwise: Is he ready for the NFL?

His showing in the Sugar Bowl certainly didn't do him any favors, especially with so many questions hovering about the competition he'd faced at Hawaii leading into that game.

But this week at the Senior Bowl the 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist is getting a chance for redemption, and in a twisted sort of way, thinks the Sugar Bowl drubbing might have been a blessing in disguise.

"Adversity is something that doesn't really scare me. It doesn't really bring me down," said Brennan, one of three quarterbacks on the South team along with Kentucky's Andre' Woodson and Tennessee's Erik Ainge. "The only thing that bowl game did for me was that it gave me great motivation and determination for these next few months.

"The fact that we lost that game and the way we lost it kind of brought me back down a level. I've really attacked my workouts and been able to get ready. This is my chance to show what I can do when everything's the same for everybody."

The biggest adjustment Brennan is having to make this week is taking the snap from under center and not operating exclusively from the shotgun the way he did at Hawaii.

Al Saunders, the Washington Redskins' associate head coach and offensive coordinator, said he sees some similarities between Brennan and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

"What you're looking to see in this environment is accuracy and how he handles it with a lot of different people," Saunders said. "He reminds me a lot of Drew Brees, a guy who's been in the shotgun for his college career and never been under the center. Now, he's in a different environment and coached by another group of NFL coaches.

"June [Jones] did a great job with him and speaks very highly of him, and you can't discount how productive he's been during his college career. This is a big step for him, another part of the evaluation process. Let's see how he handles it."

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Brennan's not as concerned about his start to this week as he is about making sure he's peaking by the time Saturday's game arrives.

"Nobody thinks I can play from under center anyway," Brennan said. "So if I go out and have success next to these guys who've been playing in a traditional pro offense in college, it's going to say, 'This kid came out here in a week and got real good at it.'"

The other thing on his agenda is gaining some weight, although that will take some time. He weighed in at a disappointing 186 pounds on Monday after coming down with the stomach flu while training in California last week.

"I want to get above 200 pounds by the draft," said Brennan, who took a wicked beating in the Sugar Bowl and didn't finish the fourth quarter.

Nothing short of a rock star on the Hawaiian Islands, Brennan still feels for the thousands of Hawaii fans who made the long trek to New Orleans. He said that kind of support was what made his time at Hawaii so special. He just wishes the Warriors could have given their supporters a better end to an otherwise memorable season.

"It's not the way you want to end your career," Brennan said. "But when I stepped away and looked at everything that happened, it just showed us how far we came. To watch our band and watch our fans … that's something I'll take with me the rest of my life.

"It's like the old saying, 'I'd rather have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.'"

And before anybody starts accusing Hawaii of ruining the BCS bowl lineup this season, Brennan said the last time he checked, all five BCS games were lopsided affairs.

"So it's not like Hawaii was the fluke," he said.

Brennan's other regret was that Hawaii was not able to hang on to Jones as its coach. Jones left for the SMU head coaching job after the season and was replaced by his defensive coordinator at Hawaii, Greg McMackin.

In many ways, Brennan said he saw it coming and continues to be outspoken about Hawaii not making more of a financial commitment to the football program in terms of salaries and facilities.

"I think it's sad because it's the end of a great era," Brennan said. "Coach Jones did so much for that program. But at the same time, it's the kind of shake-up that I think the school needed. I mean, how can a coach take you to the Sugar Bowl and he's waiting for his contract?"

Brennan called the facilities at Hawaii "a joke" and said things were so bad that players were racking up thousands of dollars in parking tickets when they went to practice in the mornings.

The day after Jones accepted the SMU job, Herman Frazier was fired as Hawaii's athletic director amid widespread criticism for not being able to retain Jones.

Brennan said the blame goes much higher than Frazier.

"I never intended for my athletic director to get fired," he said. "I intended it to be felt upstairs with the administration and where the money gets handed down. I wanted to say, 'Look, you need to do more for the program. You've got the money. Why is it all falling apart?'

"Hawaii is a special place. What they pride themselves on is being very simple and enjoying what they have. That shouldn't be taken advantage of. Just because Hawaii can be successful with little money, that shouldn't be taken advantage of.

"We should have started a lot earlier to make the [football] environment around us better."

Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Chris at espnclow@aol.com.

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