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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 25, 2006

Shuffle on sideline stay tuned

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

For all that has been taking place on the field, the most intriguing elements of the University of Hawai'i's first week of spring football practice were surrounding it yesterday.

On the fringes of the Les Murakami Stadium surface that was the Warriors' impromptu replacement for the soggy upper fields, the sight of two charismatic coaching figures from seasons past, Dennis McKnight and Mike Cavanaugh, drew the most attention. And, this being UH, the most speculation.

We know they weren't there for the defensive line coaching vacancy. That was filled later in the day by Jeff Reinebold, replacing Vantz Singletary, who left last month.

But the perception, despite denials by principals, is that there could be more coaching changes afoot before spring ends. The feeling is that the staff at work now could be further rearranged before the Sept. 2 season-opening kickoff in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Coming off a 5-7 season and with national letter of intent day in the rear view mirror, that possibility should surprise no one, just as Singletary's departure surely didn't.

Head coach June Jones, as heavy allocation of scholarships to defense this past recruiting campaign and dismissal of a couple players for academic deficiencies suggests, is exhibiting a willingness to shake things up. The kind that we haven't always noticed before.

Now, we wait to see if he has another change in mind, perhaps involving special teams, where McKnight's expertise and passion coincides with the Warriors' needs from last season.

Odds are that if there are additional staff changes, they won't involve Cavanaugh, who is but one season into his position at Oregon State. His arrival yesterday, coming as it did with wife and son in tow, spoke more to a social call than an interview.

But McKnight's plans, he said, to be here through the April 15 finish of spring ball, suggest the possibility of something else entirely. He is a free agent since the firing of San Diego State's staff after the season-ending loss to UH, even if he was wearing an Aztec shirt yesterday.

An offensive lineman for 11 NFL seasons, McKnight has worked both special teams and some O-line in his two seasons (1999-2000) at UH.

That would seem to open up a couple of possibilities should Jones decide to do some shuffling of the nine-man assistant coaching staff. The Warriors could move someone, perhaps multi-faceted Mouse Davis, into football operations. Or, even return Wes Suan to running backs after yeoman duty replacing Cavanaugh on the offensive line.

With 11 more spring practice dates, the possibility remains that all the action won't be on the field.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.