Freshman back making a run for starting position
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
The University of Hawai'i football team broke training camp yesterday afternoon with a more focused outlook than when workouts began nine days and 18 practices ago.
With right tackle Uriah Moenoa and kicker Justin Ayat claiming starting jobs, the remaining battles are at running back, weakside linebacker and field cornerback.
Kelvin Millhouse and Gary Wright entered camp as the top candidates to play the cover position on the wide side of the field. Wright moved to boundary cornerback when Hyrum Peters suffered a hamstring injury last week, and coach June Jones said Wright and Millhouse have played well.
Strongside linebacker Joe Correia's sore ankle enabled Pisa Tinoisamoa, who was expected to back up weakside linebacker Keani Alapa, to work with the first-team defense. Even if Tinoisamoa does not win the job on the weak side, he will split time with Correia on the strong side and play linebacker when the Warriors are aligned in a nickel (five defensive backs) or "Okie" (six defensive backs) scheme.
"He's been having a good preseason," defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said of the 220-pound Tinoisamoa, who has lost 15 pounds since June. "He's much quicker."
Jones said the eight-man battle for the lone job at running back will not be settled until a few days before the season-opener against Montana Sept. 8.
In yesterday morning's first full-contact workouts, freshman Mike Bass played with the first-team offense. He struggled to find running room against the first-team defense, but broke two long runs against the reserves.
The 5-foot-6, 165-pound Bass answered concerns about his blocking ability when he held off 6-foot-4, 246-pound defensive end Kevin Jackson.
"He blocks his man and he knows his assignments," Jones said of Bass.
Said Bass: "I don't feel my blocking is too bad, especially when we get into games and I can cut-block. I'll pick somebody and take on half his body instead of blocking him full-on. In practice, I don't want to cut my own teammates. In a game, I'll cut anybody."
Bass said he was surprised when he was summoned to play with the first team. "I had the jitters," he said. "After the first play, I got over them."
The Warriors will have more players available tomorrow, when they begin practicing only once a day. Peters, Correia, defensive tackle Mike Iosua (shoulder sprain), safety Jacob Espiau (sprained foot) and wideout Tafiti Uso (bruised thigh) are expected to participate in drills.
"It's starting to come together," Jones said.
With little surprise, Moenoa was selected as the successor to right tackle Kynan Forney, now a starting guard with the Atlanta Falcons. Moenoa, a redshirt freshman from Iolani School, proved to be a capable perimeter blocker.
Ayat, who never was really pushed by freshman walk-on Aaron Bennet, sealed the job with a 50-yard field goal yesterday morning.