Springing Toward Football
Friday - March 24, 2006
If spring football didn’t exist, football fans would have had to invent it. How else could devotees of the college game get themselves to fever pitch with the first game still more than five months away? For the University of Hawaii Warriors, the spring season began this week. By NCAA caveat, only 15 practices are allowed, and there is much to be done.
Offensively, this is shaping up as the most talented group June Jones has had to date. They return the nation’s leading passer in Colt Brennan, who should only improve as he masters the nuances of the offense. Backup QB Tyler Graunke has added strength in the off-season and will be ready to step in if necessary. The offensive line is talented and deep, with All WAC performer Samson Satele moving from guard to center, his likely position in the NFL. The tackles will be solid with Tala Esera and Dane Uperesa back. The guards will be new starters, with Hercules Satele and Marques Kaonohi the front-runners.
Establishing cohesion with this group will be the biggest challenge of the spring for the offense. The skill positions present an embarrassment of riches, and have never been as gifted or deep in UH football history. The slotback position features returning starters Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen, and Jason Ferguson returning from injury. Any one of them can break loose for a score on any play. As a group, they prevent most teams from playing their base defense, forcing opponents into protracted use of nickel and dime packages.
At wide out, Ross Dickerson is back, Jason Rivers returns after a forced hiatus for academic reasons, Ian Sample will be around, NCAA permitting, and Kenny Patton switches from cornerback. Again, a terrific combo of speed and depth.
Finally, running back should be the strongest it’s been in the Jones era. Nate Ilaoa, the best football player on the team, is in what strength and conditioning coach Mel DeLaura describes as “unbelievable shape - the best he’s ever been in.”
Imagine a real running threat to go with the aerials. Scary. And converted lineman Reagan Mauia will be a load in short yardage situations.
Defense is the test and the challenge. Up front should be OK with Mel Purcell and Ikaika Alama-Francis as bookend starters. Karl Noa, Jake Ingram and Keala Watson add depth on the outside. Inside, Michael Lafaele and Clarence Tuioti-Mariner will hold the fort along with 500-pound bench presser Lawrence Wilson.
Linebacker has a ton of candidates. Inside, Solomon Elimimian was super as a freshman, and we’ll see the real Adam Leonard, hampered last year by the lingering effects of a knee injury. Brashton Satele and Timo Paepule will push the starters. Outside, Tyson Kafentsis, C.J Allen Jones, John Fonoti and R.J KreiselKauhane are the front-runners.
The secondary is the biggest concern. If Leonard Peters is granted a sixth year for medical hardship, it will be huge. Brad Kalilimoku comes over from LB to play strong safety; he is a playmaker. Those two would be an excellent tandem.
Corner is the largest problem, where there is no real experience. Kenny Patton is on offense, and Ryan Keomaka and Keao Monteilh have been dismissed for academic reasons. There is not a familiar name left in the stable. If one player can step up, they may be able to find another out of the seven corners entering in the fall.
How far away is Sept. 2 and Alabama in Tuscaloosa? Ask the coaches and they’ll tell you it’ll be here in the blink of an eye. I’m already dreaming of this team returning from the Deep South with something besides a big payday.
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