Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Warriors vie for starting positions

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

With the first week — 20 percent — of spring practice completed, the University of Hawaii football coaches yesterday offered a depth chart that could change as early as tomorrow, the first workout in which pads are permitted.

Here’s a position-by-position assessment:

Quarterback: The 6-foot-2 Tim Chang, who gained 10 pounds and now weighs 200, is the acknowledged starter, although the best news has been Jared Flint’s pain-free workouts. Flint, who exited last year’s spring practice as the top quarterback, underwent surgery to repair a damaged right (throwing) rotator cuff last August. He is two months ahead of his initial rehabilitation schedule.

Receiver: Four starters return — wideouts Ashley Lelie and Justin Colbert and slotbacks Craig Stutzmann and Channon Harris — but the competition has been fierce. In particular, redshirt freshman Mark Tate is making a strong bid for Colbert’s job at left wideout.

"I’m out here to compete," Colbert said. "If a position is open for a better man, then the better man is going to get it."

Running back: With so many uncertainties — Afatia Thompson and Avion Weaver have appealed for an extra year; three recruits arrive in August — no clear leader has emerged. Thero Mitchell has looked the best on the field; Tui Ala has excelled in the weight room. Chad Kapanui, perhaps the position’s best athlete, is still learning after moving from both quarterback and linebacker, and Ken Witherspoon, who was supposed to move to linebacker, remains in the mix.

Offensive line: Uriah Moenoa, a redshirt freshman from Iolani School, has emerged as the top candidate to replace departed right tackle Kynan Forney. Assistant Mike Cavanaugh, who coaches the blockers, said Moenoa is strong, smart and has good foot work.

The returning starters are left tackle Lui Fuata, left guard Manly Kanoa III, center Brian Smith and right guard Vincent Manuwai.

Defensive line: Left tackle Mike Iosua has dominated drills and Lance Samuseva, playing in place of injured right tackle Lui Fuga, also has been impressive. While left end Laanui Correa and right end Houston Ala are listed as starters, Wayne Hunter and Travis Laboy have played well enough to steal jobs by the end of the 15 days of practices. Hunter, in particular, has been difficult to block. Junior college All-America defensive tackle Isaak Sopoaga will compete for a spot when he reports in August.

Linebacker: Chris Brown and Joe Correia have made smooth transitions from defensive end, and Keani Alapa, despite practicing with a heavy brace to protect a surgically repaired right knee, appears to have won the weak-side job.

Brown admitted to getting tangled in a web of blocks as a defensive end last year. But he said playing middle linebacker is the difference between jumping after a running start and jumping from a standing position.

"It’s great," said Brown, who can run 40 yards in 4.6 seconds and bench press 225 pounds 39 times. "I’m coming full speed at a guy. I can try a lot of moves."

Defensive back: When the season opens, Nate Jackson and Jacob Espiau will be the starting safeties. But this spring, Espiau is practicing sparingly to allow others to develop and Jackson isn’t practicing at all while recovering from foot surgery. David Gilmore has emerged as the third safety, and Matt Manuma and Robert Grant have made accelerated progress since moving from other positions.

Hyrum Peters and Gary Wright are the top cornerbacks, at the moment, but assistant coach Rich Miano said Kelvin Millhouse and Abraham Elimimian will get more work this week.

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