UH football team begins fine tuning
|||Lineman on top of his game|
|||UH needs someone to step up|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i football team yesterday ended 17 days of training camp significantly better than it was a year ago but still with some unresolved issues for the Sept. 2 opener against Alabama.
"It's a sad thing for training camp to end," defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said, smiling. "Why does school have to get in the way?"
On Thursday, the Warriors moved out of the "University Hilton," the two dance studios where they spent the first two weeks of training camp. There is no practice today, and UH's fall semester begins tomorrow.
"We are light years from where we were at the same time last year, but because of our competition, we've got more work to do," Glanville said.
Glanville said the coaches refer to the road game against Alabama as "the Super Bowl." This week, UH will implement its game plan.
"The week before Super Bowl week you have to get all of your practicing done," Glanville said. "Once you travel that far (the Warriors depart Aug. 29), when you go to the Super Bowl, with all of that harassment, you don't get done what you need to get done. (This) week we'll practice like it's the week before the Super Bowl. We're going to get our work done, and fine-tune it during Super Bowl week."
The Warriors appear to be set at several positions, including nine spots on offense. Here's a breakdown:
Colt Brennan, who led the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes as a third-year sophomore in 2005, has a better grasp of the four-wide offense.
"Now," UH coach June Jones said, "he knows what I'm talking about."
Brennan, who transferred from a junior college last summer, said it was easier to focus this camp. "Last year at this time, I was still looking for a place to stay. This year, it's completely different."
He said his focus has been "not on minimizing mistakes, but taking my game to the next level."
Despite a push from Inoke Funaki, third-year sophomore Tyler Graunke remains as the top backup. "Tyler is a very good player," Jones said.
Sophomore slotbacks Davone Bess, who is limited because of a strained right hamstring, and Ryan Grice-Mullins have cemented starting jobs. The competition at the two wideout spots won't be resolved until the end of the week.
Jason Rivers, who did not play last season to focus on academics, has had a slight edge over Chad Mock, a senior walk-on, at left wideout.
Ross Dickerson also had a small edge over Ian Sample at right wideout. But Dickerson has missed the past two practices because of a sore ankle. Sample resumed practicing yesterday after being limited for three workouts because of a sore groin and hamstring.
"It's from working my legs so much," Sample said. "Things get tight. It was more my fault. I didn't stretch enough."
Sample said he enjoys competing against Dickerson. Both are seniors.
"He's going to give 100 percent, and so am I," Sample said. "We don't have too big of egos, so we work with each other, help each other out."
The five who entered training camp as starters — left tackle Tala Esera, left guard Hercules Satele, center Samson Satele, right guard John Estes and right tackle Dane Uperesa — will exit that way.
On video, where coaches spend the most time evaluating players, Estes has stood out for his agility and efficiency.
"He's a very talented offensive lineman," Jones said.
Jones also praised Keith Ah Soon, who can play both tackle positions; right tackle Keoni Steinhoff, and guard Laupepa Letuli.
"Keoni Steinhoff has been the most pleasant surprise," Jones said. "He has a chance to earn a scholarship one day. He's really playing well. He's worked hard, he's gained weight, and he knows what he's doing."
Jones said Laupepa, who wears a cast on his broken left hand, "has shown flashes to be special."
Nate Ilaoa has established himself as the starter, with Reagan Mauia, a converted nose tackle, as the top backup.
Except for a sore toe that kept him from practicing for two days — a teammate stepped on his foot during a drill — Ilaoa is enjoying the healthiest of his six UH training camps.
He said he feels comfortable at his weight, which ranges between 245 and 252. He is caught in the battle of trying to slim down while maintaining muscle, which adds weight.
"It's hard work," Ilaoa said.
Nose tackle Michael Lafaele and defensive ends Ikaika Alama-Francis and Melila Purcell III have solidified starting jobs. Backups Renolds Fruean, Keala Watson, Lawrence Wilson, Rocky Savaiigaea and Kahai LaCount also have been effective, giving the Warriors the flexibility of rotating two units against Alabama.
There will be further depth when Fale Laeli, who has been bothered by a concussion, is back in form.
It took two days for Amani Purcell, who was cleared to join the team on Friday, to practice with the first team.
Yesterday, he worked on the right side, in place of C.J. Allen-Jones, who did not practice because of tightness in his right hamstring.
"He already looks like he might be one of the best there," Jones said.
Purcell is making the transition from defensive end, where he played in eight games for Penn State in 2004, to outside linebacker.
As a defensive end in Penn State's 4-3 scheme, Purcell said, "I was in a three-point stance. But I had a lot of the same responsibilities. I had to contain the outside. The only thing different (as an outside linebacker) is I have to drop back more (in pass coverage). It's more work, but you've got to do what you've got to do to get on the field."
Although Tyson Kafentzis and Brashton Satele have played mostly on the left side, the outside linebackers are expected to be interchangeable. That means Kafentzis, who has practiced as No. 1 on the left side, actually is competing against all of the outside linebackers.
"It's not me and Brashton, it's me and everyone," Kafentzis said. "Everyone is battling — me, Brashton, C.J., Micah (Lau), Amani, R.J. (Kiesel-Kauhane), Bully (Fergerstrom). We're all going for the two spots."
Of the group, Kafentzis has been the healthiest, or the one least likely to report an injury.
"I might be hurt, but I'll play through it," he said. "I've never not played through an injury. I've been blessed."
Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard are regarded as the starters. Blaze Soares has been limited because of a hamstring injury. He'll resume practicing tomorrow.
Despite being kept on a play count because of a tender left ankle, free safety Leonard Peters is the leader of the secondary.
Glanville said Brad Kalilimoku was the top strong safety before suffering hamstring tightness last week.
"He was No. 1 before he got hurt," Glanville said. "When you're not out there, you can't be No. 1."
Kalilimoku's injury opened the way for Jacob Patek to practice with the first team. Glanville said he is confident Patek, who transferred from Blinn College, where he was an outside linebacker, can handle the responsibilities and pressure of starting.
"I'm not worried about him at all," Glanville said.
Keenan Jones, who transferred from Compton College, still has not been deemed eligible to play this season. His status was supposed to have been decided yesterday.
For now, A.J. Martinez, C.J. Hawthorne, Kenny Patton, Myron Newberry and Gerard Lewis are the top contenders for playing time.
Yesterday, Martinez and Hawthorne practiced with the first team.
"We're all competing for jobs right now," Martinez said.
Martinez was temporarily replaced at left cornerback — by Patton, last year's starter — after aggravating a groin injury.
"I originally strained it during the summer, right before camp," Martinez said. "After the first four days (of training camp), it acted up again."
He rested for two days, practiced and then aggravated the injury.
"I was being an idiot about it," Martinez said. "I came back too early, when I should have rested it. I really felt bad at one point."
With the competition, Martinez said, candidates don't want to sit out drills.
"It's the pressure of wanting to do your job, really" Martinez said. "I'm so competitive, I don't want to come back and be second string. I still want to start. That's a good thing, because it shows competitiveness. Sometimes it's a bad thing because it makes you want to come back too early."
Many teams adhere to the code that a player won't lose his job because of an injury.
"My policy," Glanville said, "is to play the best players."
Glanville said he does not try to influence an injured player to practice. "I don't ever try to be a doctor," Glanville said. "That's not my place."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.