BY Stephen Tsai
The Hawai'i football team will have a new play-caller on defense (Dave Aranda) when spring training opens Wednesday.
Some coaches will have new titles.
And Tommy Heffernan has replaced Mel deLaura as the Warriors' primary conditioning coach.
But one thing has not changed.
"I'm still under the radar," said starting quarterback Bryant Moniz, who is largely unrecognized as a pizza deliveryman. "Nobody knows me."
Last spring, Moniz, a Leilehua High graduate, was at the bottom of the depth chart. He did not play in 2008 after transferring from Fresno City College.
But he ascended the depth chart and, after Greg Alexander suffered a season-ending injury, Moniz was No. 1.
He enters this spring without the fear of being cut.
"That thought was in my mind (last spring)," he said.
Moniz has gained 17 pounds since the end of the season, and now weighs 202. "Weight training, proteins," he said, "... more pizza."
"I feel quick," he added. "We'll see."
After more than two months of the conditioning program, Moniz said, "there's a good vibe in the locker room. The workouts have been good. There's good team chemistry. Everybody is excited to put on some pads."
Candidates: Shane Austin, David Graves, Bryant Moniz, Corey Nielsen, Brent Rausch, Cayman Shutter.
Spring work: Based on his breakout debut season, Moniz, who transferred to UH in January 2009, enters spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback. But quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich promises to "mix it around." The plan, according to Rolovich, is to have "king of the mountain" competitions, with accumulated points determining who takes reps with the first (two-quarterback) group. "We'll run two huddles," Rolovich said. "The key is to be in the first huddle." Moniz, who will go on scholarship this summer, has kept to a strict program to improve his arm strength. Moniz suffered from arm fatigue in 2009 as he tried to adapt to the increased workload in practices and games. Although Moniz is capable of making all of the throws in the four-wide offense, he is seeking to improve on his deep throws on streak patterns. Last year, there were 15 incompletions that were each within six inches of being 30-yard-plus plays. "We were a top-five passing offense, but we still left a lot of yards on the field," Rolovich said. "We haven't reached the ceiling yet. There's great potential." Austin should provide gritty competition; he won his only start last year. Of the three freshmen who redshirted last year, Graves has shown to be the most versatile. He creates migraines with his passing and scrambling.
A QB's story: Of all of the brochures on preventing injuries, none mentions fractured pinkies suffered while striking a teammate's helmet on a follow-through. "(Stuff) happens," said Rausch, who was the No. 2 quarterback when he was injured in the season's second week. Rausch, who did not play a down in 2009, has 14 pass attempts in his first two UH seasons. Discouraged? Nah. "I'm cool," Rausch said. "I'm trying to take it play by play. I'm not worrying about the other stuff." Rolovich said: "He's had a difficult career, but he's really matured since he's come to Hawai'i. He understands the offense, and he puts in a lot of hard work."
Candidates: Kennedy Carlson, Guster Cunningham, Chizzy Dimude, Alex Green, Kahekili Kalalau, John Lister, Jordan Monico, Hogan Rosehill.
Spring work: Green, who rushed for 476 yards as a backup last year, moves into the featured role. Green, a senior, is a tough second-chance runner: he averaged 0.74 broken tackles per rush last season. Dimude will serve as lightning to Green's thunder. The coaches had considered moving Dimude to slotback to give him more touches. Lister, a grayshirt who enrolled full time in January, will get a shot as a short-yardage/blocking back. Rosehill also could fill the role. Teammates have noticed that Rosehill emerged as a leader during offseason training.
Left wideouts: Joe Avery, Rodney Bradley, Darius Bright, Westley LeClay, Mike Tinoco.
Left slotbacks: Dustin Blount, Corey Paclebar, Greg Salas.
Right slotbacks: Dwight Armbrust, Ryan Henry, Bennett Nicola, Miah Ostrowski, Kealoha Pilares.
Right wideouts: Justin Clapp, Jett Jasper, Chris Pemberton, Royce Pollard, Billy Ray Stutzmann.
Spring work: Key absences have opened the competition at the outside spots. On the left side, Bradley continues to recover from surgery to repair a broken fibia and tibia in his left leg. Right wideout Malcolm Lane said he is on suspension because of poor grades during the fall semester. Right wideout Jovonte Taylor's eligibility expired after an unsuccessful attempt to appeal for a medical hardship. Pollard and Stutzmann are the top candidates at right wideout. Avery, who is at his fastest after 15 yards, is ready to make a push. [0x14]The most intriguing is Bright, who is 6 feet 5, 225 pounds, and can run 40 yards in 4.47 seconds. Bright, who played at City College of San Francisco last year, enrolled at UH in January. The depth at wideout will allow Pilares to move back to slotback. As a slotback for the first half of 2009, Pilares caught 71.4 percent of the passes when he was the primary receiver. After moving to wideout, to replace Bradley, he caught 47.8 percent of the passes in his direction. Salas is deserving of an All-America candidacy after catching 106 passes for 1,590 yards in 2009. Salas made the adjustment from wideout to slot, where he often had the matchup advantage. Salas proved to be tough to tackle, too. His yards-after-catch average was 10.62.
A receivers's story: In trying to juke a defender, a necessary skill for a receiver is selling the cut. Pollard has perfected that on his down-and-out routes. He also has it down on his sales routes. He has a part-time job selling cutlery. "He needs gas money," Anthony Pollard said of his son. By initially using Bright on the left, given that Bradley will be fully healthy this summer, is an endorsement for Pollard. He has worked on his speed — he's down to 4.47 seconds over 40 yards — and is now active in the weight room. He can bench press 265 pounds.
Left tackles: Scott Collins, Austin Hansen, Clayton Laurel, Casey Purdy.
Left guards: Clint Daniel, Andrew Faaumu, Brett Leonard, Ikaika Rodenhurst, Tuiatua Tuiasosopo.
Centers: Kahai Choy, Matagisila Lefiti, London Sapolu, Bronson Tiwanak.
Right guards: Brysen Ginlack, Elmer Lim, Chauncy Makainai, Adrian Thomas, Drew Uperesa.
Right tackles: Kainoa LaCount, Levi Legay, Laupepa Letuli, Jordan Loeffler.
Spring work: During the exit meeting in December, line coach Gordy Shaw said there were 12 potential starters among the returnees. "And the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th guys are working just as hard," said Hansen, who is projected to succeed Aaron Kia at left tackle. One of the most highly regarded, Lefiti, had the misfortune of being the understudy to a center (John Estes) who started every game in his UH career. The Warriors have enough depth that Leonard, who redshirted last year, is moving from left tackle to left guard. "He's a very physical player," Shaw said. Adrian Thomas, who was a part-time starter at right tackle, moves to right guard, where he will compete against Ginlack, a part-time starter in 2008. As a senior last year, Ginlack redshirted to focus on academics. Letuli's name is written in chalk at right tackle. He is seeking a medical exemption to play as a sixth-year senior in 2010. If the request is turned down, Kainoa LaCount gets the first shot. "A lot of things hinge on Pepa's ruling," Shaw said.
A lineman's story: The most closely watched position on the line is known as the blind side. The coaches are confident that Hansen can make the transition from anonymity to back-side blocker, where he will regulary face an opponent's best pass rusher. "We're all working together," Hansen said. This semester, he has exceeded all of his training goals, most notably breaking the 400-pound barrier in the bench press. At 6 feet 4 and 295 pounds, Hansen has the necessary tools: long reach, nimble feet, strength, high football IQ and an on-field nastiness that belies his usual jovial persona. "I like to have a good time," said Hansen, who lives with his wife, Rachel, in an off-campus apartment. They were high school sweethearts who first met in elementary school. "People in Hawai'i are more loving and accepting than anywhere else I've experienced," he said. "It's been easy to fit in. I don't know if I fit in as much as they accept me."
Left ends: Michael Maracle, Elliott Purcell, Kapono Rawlins-Crivello, Liko Satele, Kamalu Umu.
Left tackles: Abraham Cavaco-Amoy, Haku Correa, David Hafoka, Geordon Hanohano, Ikaika Mahoe, Josh Manapuna, Vaughn Meatoga,
Right tackles: Ryan Eastman, Marcus Malepeai, Zach Masch, Kaniela Tuipulotu.
Right ends: Paipai Falemalu, Waylon Lolotai, Earvin Sione, Alasi Toilolo.
Spring work: The Warriors believe a pressing concern — pass rush — will be successfully addressed. Falemalu, a converted linebacker, showed promise as the rush end in passing situations. This spring, Falemalu will move over to the right side. "Paipai has developed into a marque player," Aranda said. "He's very athletic. As physical as he is, his footwork and athleticism make a good combination." Umu is expected to be the front-runner at the other end position. Umu redshirted in 2009 after transferring from Charleston Southern. "He did a lot of good things for us on scout team last year," Aranda said. "He is very light on his feet. He's very explosive with his hands." Umu will have only one season of UH eligibility. The Warriors are hopeful that Meatoga can remain healthy. He has recovered from a high-ankle sprain. In games in which Meatoga started and finished, the Warriors were 6-2 last year. "He's a technician," Aranda said. "He understands football. And there's a nastiness to him." Tuipulotu, a transfer from Arizona, will be in the mix at tackle. Hafoka, who has recovered from back surgery, will compete in the rotation.
A tackle's story: By his teammates' testimony, Tuipulotu is a tough guy. His call tone is a dialogue of a hold-me-back fight. But here's the rub: he relies on massages. "It helps me relax," he said. It's different on the field, where he is fury in motion. "I can't be a big softy in the middle," he said. "I do what I need to do to get the job done." That was the case when he decided to move from Maui to stay with an aunt on O'ahu's North Shore. He figured if he could make it on the Kahuku football team, he could play anywhere. He accepted a scholarship to Arizona. "I got caught up in the hype," he said. "I wasn't really recruited by UH. I saw more Mainland coaches in one week than UH coaches during the whole recruiting season." But the pull of the islands was too much. He said he has recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder.
Strongside: Aaron Brown, Joey Iosefa, Art Laurel,
Middle: Tim Brown, George Daily-Lyles, Cory Daniel, Jake Heun, Mana Lolotai,
Weakside: Po'okela Ahmad, Lesao Iakopo, Kaiser Iuta, Joseph Malabuyoc, Corey Paredes, Alema Tachibana.
Spring work: The Warriors are prepared to open spring training without middle linebacker Brashton Satele, who still is awaiting a ruling on his petition for a sixth year of eligibility. But the Warriors are deep at that position — Silva and Heun have started; Daily-Lyles was a prized recruit in 2009; Brown is a big hitter from Wai'anae, and Daniel is a former mixed-martial arts fighter. Attention is at stongside linebacker, where Brown, a converted safety, is now competing.
A linebacker's story: Daily-Lyles has raced up Koko Crater (17 minutes). He has climbed Stairway to Heaven. "That was pretty scary," he said. "It was straight vertical in some spots." The greatest challenge was redshirting last year. There was waffling as to whether he would play as a true freshman. But the debate ended when he suffered a pulled hamstring. Not playing, he said, "was a pain in the butt, actually. But it was a blessing in disguise, too." He acknowledged he would have had a reduced role last year. What's more, he knew there was much more to learn. Now, he said, he is ready to compete for a berth in the rotation.
Left corners: Lametrius Davis, Tank Hopkins, Kawika Ornellas, Chico Ramirez, Darius Ward.
Free safeties: Kamalani Alo, Jared Bennett, Mana Silva, Richard Torres, Mike Wadsworth.
Strong safeties: Kawika Borden, Kenny Estes, Jordan Gomes, Jeffrey Mueller, Fesootaii Papalii, Parker Paredes, Spencer Smith.
Right corners: Jeramy Bryant, Steven Christian, Steven Stepter, Lewis Walker.
Nickelback: Spencer Smith, Richard Torres, Lewis Walker.
Spring work: The Warriors had to rebuild the entire secondary last season. Through trial, mistrial and error, Davis and Bryant have emerged as dependable cover defenders. Smith and Silva also had good years. The secondary was stressed more because of the absence of a consistent pass rush. That should change this season. What's more, Walker and Ornellas are expected to receive more work, and Christian, who underwent hip surgery, gives the Warriors another physical corner.
A DB's story: Smith has watched every episode of the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." He has DVDs of the show's first four seasons. And his high school friends once chipped in to buy him a ticket to a Will Smith concert. Which is why Spencer Smith can tell the "story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down." Raised in Georgia, Smith, who had a Hawai'i theme for his graduation party, has adjusted to life in the 50th state. He eats local food, his best friend is slotback Kealoha Pilares, and he aced an upper-level hula class. He also is at home in the secondary, where he rotates between safety and nickelback. Weighing 185 as a freshman, Smith, who will be a fifth-year senior in the fall, now weighs 205. He also increased his maximum bench press to 365 pounds (from 275) while maintaining his 4.4 speed in the 40. He also has been impressive in the classroom. He will earn a bachelor's degree in May, then begin a Master's program this summer.
Kickers: Brian Blumberg, Scott Enos.
Punter: Alex Dunnachie.
Long-snapper: Luke Ingram.
Spring work: A year ago, the Warriors were limited because they did not have an experienced punter or long-snapper on the spring roster, and the lone kicker, Brett Symonds, was preparing to transfer. There is optimism this spring. Ingram has overcome setbacks to become a reliable snapper. He had contracted flu-like symptoms shortly before the start of training camp in August, and he played the first few games with a severely sprained ankle. Dunnachie, who was raised in Australia, had never played American football until joining the Warriors. He had punts that were spectacular and spectacles. Enos was inconsistent on his kickoffs, prompting UH to sign another kicker. Enos will get all of spring practice to maintain his job.