Warriors start focusing on future
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
University of Hawai'i coach June Jones has decided on his starting quarterback for the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl on Christmas Day, although he will not name him publicly until Dec. 15, when the Warriors resume practicing.
But it is no mystery that Tim Chang, a fourth-year junior who needs 2,593 yards to break the NCAA record for career yards, will enter spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback.
Jones said Chang "won't take any reps (in team drills) in the spring," allowing the work to be divided among the quarterbacks battling for the No. 2 position. Jason Whieldon, who was the top backup until starting Saturday's regular-season finale against Boise State, will complete his UH eligibility at the end of the Hawai'i Bowl.
With final exams scheduled for this week, the UH coaches will focus on recruiting. A handful of recruits have visited as the Warriors try to fill about 14 vacant scholarships. Here's a look at UH's future plans:
Third-year juniors Kainoa Akina and Jeff Rhode, second-year freshman Ryan Stickler and true freshman Jack Rolovich will battle for the top backup job to Chang.
Akina ascended to No. 3 after excelling in an intrasquad scrimmage on Nov. 5. Rhode is more focused since forgoing his second job as a baseball player last year.
Stickler, who played well last spring but struggled in training camp, is expected to spend the entire summer in Hawai'i. His father bought him a two-bedroom condo near the university. In the past month, Rolovich ran the scout team that simulated an opposing team's offense.
Inoke Funaki, a former Kahuku High quarterback, will return from a two-year church mission next summer. Funaki, who signed with UH in February 2002, will be eligible to play next fall.
Taylor Humphrey, a senior at Miramonte High in Orinda, Calif., is expected to give his oral commitment to UH next week. The Warriors are not recruiting any other quarterback.
The four starters, including top reserve Kevin Jackson, will complete their UH eligibility this month. Defensive line coach Vantz Singletary said if the season were to start today, the starting defensive ends would be Melila Purcell III, who can play on both sides, and Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan, who was on the UH basketball team as a freshman and sophomore.
"No question about it," Singletary said. "I'll be willing to put everything on it."
As a late bloomer who didn't play football until last April, "Tony doesn't have any bad habits," Singletary said. "He's like a newborn, but he's growing up very fast. He's getting to know what playing with violence is all about."
Singletary said Kamehameha alum Karl Noa also should challenge for playing time at defensive end.
Jones said Lui Fuga, who is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, Matt Faga and Abu Ma'afala are in line to replace departing defensive tackles Isa'ako Sopoaga and Lance Samuseva.
Darrell Tautofi, a 2000 Kaimuki High graduate, is attending classes at UH, although he did not have enough credits toward his major to play this season. He should be cleared for spring practice.
Defensive tackle Hausia Faleofa also is working on his eligibility. Faleofa attended College of the Canyons for two years and then went on a two-year church mission before attending Western Michigan.
Faleofa, Tautofi and Faga would have one year of eligibility remaining.
The departure of senior Chad Kalilimoku will open several options. While Watson Ho'ohuli, who missed most of the season with a knee injury, and Lincoln Manutai are next in line, Jones is considering moving weakside linebacker Ikaika Curnan to the middle. Jones said freshmen Timo Paepule and Daniel Tautofi also are candidates.
"Everybody will get a chance in the spring to show what they can do," Jones said.
Three-quarters of the secondary will be departing, leaving right cornerback Abraham Elimimian as the lone returning starter.
Kenny Patton, a second-year freshman who is redshirting this season, probably is the leading contender to replace left cornerback Kelvin Millhouse. Omega Hogan, Cameron Hollingsworth and Ernest Powell also are in contention. UH is recruiting two cornerbacks.
Although A.J. Martinez practiced at cornerback, his future might be at safety. Leonard Peters, Lono Manners, Lamar Broadway, Matt Manuma and Paul Lutu-Carroll also will compete for the two open safety positions.
Lutu-Carroll, who is related to former University High and Washington standout Leroy Lutu, could be the surprise. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Lutu-Carroll is considered one of the hardest hitters in practice.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com or 525-8051.