Team preview: Hawaii
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2005 college football season, exclusively on Insider.
Life after Timmy Chang is something June Jones will have to get used to -- and in a hurry.
Hawaii is minus its NCAA record-setting quarterback for the first time in the 21st century. And with no real replacement waiting patiently in the wings, Jones opens the 2005 campaign against two-time defending national champion Southern California at home, before venturing to Michigan State the following weekend.
The Spartans are still smarting from a late November loss to UH they think was aided by several suspect flags along the way. The thrill-ride 41-38 victory was part of a four-game win streak to close the 2004 season for the Warriors, including a Hawaii Bowl win over UAB.
There are many who believe Hawaii will be fortunate to win four games this season, much less continue the modest streak against the likes of USC and Michigan State. Hawaii has a bye the following weekend, before traveling to Idaho in that school's first game as a WAC member. Hawaii and the road have not always been good traveling companions. The Warriors finished 0-4 off island last season, losing by a combined score of 231-66. And that was with Chang riding shotgun in Jones' famed run-and-shoot.
The veteran coach spent most of the spring telling his players about the opportunity that awaited them in the fall. In his mind, it's a chance to show how far Hawaii has come since he inherited an 0-12 team in 1998.
Entering his seventh season, Jones is a solid 48-30, including three wins in four postseason appearances. But it would seem unlikely 2005 will end with a postseason parade. After the game in Idaho, Hawaii returns home to face three-time defending WAC champion Boise State and then hits the road again, this time to Ruston, La. to play the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech.
Not until mid-October does Hawaii have a truly winnable game. And by then, Hawaii could be halfway to 0-6 and counting.
To make matters more difficult still, talented offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh opted to leave the island chain for Oregon State. Joining Jones' staff in 1999, Cavanaugh helped guide linemen Adrian Klemm, Kynan Forney and Wayne Hunter to successful careers in the NFL. His fiery disposition was missed during spring ball with Jones asking run-and-shoot guru Mouse Davis to try and replace Cavanaugh's.
And while Davis knows everything there is to know about this once trendy offense, he'll be hard-pressed to pass on the same kind of knowledge Cavanaugh has when it comes to teaching technique. Cavanaugh is a student of offensive linemen. He understands that quick feet and the ability to address proper pad level are just as important as bench-pressing the building.
Jones spent the off-season inquiring about possible replacements before deciding that shoring up one of the nation's worst defenses was equally important as finding the right man to teach the big uglies up front. In stepped Jerry Glanville as defensive coordinator in one of the more surprise moves of Jones' career.
Seemingly more comfortable as a television analyst than as a coach, Glanville's job will be to improve a defense that has been on a steady decline since Greg McMackin opted to leave Jones' side after the magical turnaround of 1999. That year, Hawaii went from 0-12 to 9-4, including an Oahu Bowl win over Oregon State.
"There will never be another year like this one," McMackin said as he left to be associate head coach at Texas Tech. "I want to remember my stay here as a special one."
That year, McMackin coached middle linebacker Jeff Ulbrich. They hooked up again several seasons later as player and coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
Unfortunately for Glanville, he doesn't have an Ulbrich waiting to plug up the middle. In fact, he inherits a unit that has six starters returning, which might not be all bad considering the Warriors were the worst team in the nation against the run, yielding a staggering 252.6 yards a game.
"June hired me to help get this thing turned around," Glanville said. "To do that, we have to do a better job of stopping the run and forcing turnovers to get our offense the ball. We may not be the best defense in the country next year, but we'll be better. I'm looking forward to this new challenge."
Jones echoed those sentiments.
"We've had so many guys who have been with us and know the system so well and they're not going to be out there this fall," Jones said. "There will be a lot of new players getting opportunities to show what they can do. From that standpoint, there will be time for a lot of them to grow up."
Jones surprised everyone after spring camp broke up by not inviting two of the leading candidates to fall workouts.
Eastern Michigan transfer Kainoa Akina (5-11, 186) played in seven games last year. The senior is the only quarterback with any real Division I experience, completing 7-of-19 passes in 2004 for 84 yards. He also carried the ball 12 times for 102 yards, but won't be able to practice until school starts.
"I really don't like it or agree with it," Akina said of Jones' decision to leave him out of the main mix. "But I do respect his decision. There's a reason why he's the head coach and makes $800,000 a year."
Third-year sophomore Jack Rolovich (6-3, 213) was also left out of UH's immediate plans. The younger brother of Nick Rolovich, who was instrumental in UH's nine-win season in 2001, was also surprised at not being one of 105 players invited to fall camp.
"I'm not going to transfer," Jack Rolovich said.
He saw limited playing time last year, completing 4-of-8 passes for 37 yards in two games.
"I feel that I still have a good chance," he said. "If I just work hard and do the things I can do. I really enjoy it here a lot. I think I progressed this spring, but at the same time, I think I could have done a lot better. I didn't play to my full potential."
The top two candidates exiting spring were senior Jeffrey Rhode (6-5, 224) and freshman Tyler Graunke (5-11, 179). Rhode rode the bench for most of his career, seeing more time as a pitcher for the baseball team rather than a signal-caller for football.
Still, he stands tall in the pocket and has had plenty of opportunities to learn the complicated run-and-shoot reads and schemes. Should he falter, then Graunke and fellow freshman Inoke Funaki (5-11, 190) could be next in line.
Jones has one possible wild card up his sleeve. Junior college quarterback Colt Brennan (6-3, 200) is expected to join the team this summer.
Colt has some baggage after being kicked off the Colorado football team after "trespass and unlawful sexual contact," according to the University of Colorado police department. This took place in January of 2004. Still, if allowed to transfer to UH, Brennan may be Jones' best offensive weapon.
Also walking on to the program this summer is freshman Anthony Gardner (6-0, 190) of St. Edward High in Lakewood, Ohio. His senior year in high school he threw for six touchdowns and ran in another seven. It all adds up to a lot of inexperience for the Warrior football team.
"We've got a lot of different prospects back there," quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison said. "They'll be given a chance in fall camp and then we'll have to see what shakes out once the season begins."
Quarterback is not the only spot on offense where Jones will have to start from scratch. He lost all three of his top running backs to graduation, including Michael Brewster and West Keliikipi. They combined for 1,058 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last year. They also caught 51 passes between them, with Brewster hauling in a touchdown.
Ilaoa is an interesting prospect. Voted by the Washington Post as its high school offensive player of the year, Ilaoa has spent most of his career at UH on the sideline nursing a variety of season-ending injuries. Playing mostly at slot back, Ilaoa caught 46 passes for 532 yards and three touchdowns as a red-shirt freshman in 2002. He played in only one game after injuring his knee in 2003 that also limited him last year.
Carrying too much weight may have been part of the problem for Ilaoa, who has only six rushing attempts for 56 yards and one touchdown in his collegiate career. Jones has hinted Ilaoa may spend time at slot back as well.
That means Maneafaiga could play if Ilaoa falters. He enrolled at UH in 2003, but saw no playing time. Last year Maneafaiga wasn't that active, carrying the ball four times for 19 yards and a touchdown vs. Nevada.
"Like a lot of spots on offense, we've got some inexperience back there," Jones said. "We may take a look at some of our young guys coming in to see what develops."
Also in the mix at the end of spring ball was junior Kala Latuselu (5-11, 223). He rushed for 13 yards on five carries as a freshman and improved only slightly last year with seven carries for 29 yards and a touchdown.
And while this is not a marquee position in the run-and-shoot attack, there still needs to be a credible threat back there to make the offense run effectively. Jones likes to average at least 100 yards a game from this spot.
When you lose all four starting wide-outs who accounted for 280 receptions, 3,566 yards and 33 touchdowns, it's certainly cause for concern.
Even the ever-optimistic Jones knows it's going to take some time for the new wide-outs, quarterbacks and running backs to get into sync.
The problem is, Hawaii opens with USC and Michigan State, two teams that won't prove accommodating when it comes to the learning curve facing the Warriors' offense. Chang and his four wide-outs worked magic because they were together the better part of five seasons.
Not that the talent level is depleted at this position. Unlike running back and quarterback, there are two wide-outs who have played at the highest level.
Chief among them is junior Ross Dickerson (5-11, 190), who not only is adept at catching the football, he has been known to run a reverse or two as well. Last year, he caught 15 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown. Not bad in a standard set, but in this offense, that can be one night's work.
Leading receiver Chad Owens, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, caught 102 passes last year for 1,290 yards and 17 touchdowns, including a long of 75. Dickerson will be hard-pressed to match those numbers, but Jones is counting on him to do just that.
"We need somebody to step up and fill Chad's shoes," Jones said. "Anybody in our offense can produce those kind of numbers. But you have to understand how to do it within the concept of what the defense is giving you. Somebody is open on every play."
Sophomore Jason Ferguson (5-5, 157) is one of the top slot backs exiting spring ball. He was used primarily as a return man last year, but did show some potential by catching two passes for 60 yards. He will line up at the same spot Owens did for four seasons.
Also in the mix is senior Ian Sample (5-10, 195), who caught seven passes for 71 yards, before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in 2004.
Junior Marcus Weems (6-3, 185) is one of the best talkers on the team. Jones just hopes that translates to receptions from one of the outside spots. He caught only one pass last year for six yards.
"We looked at a lot of guys during the spring trying to find the right combinations," Jones said. "Making the proper reads is critical in this offense. There were a couple of guys who separated themselves in spring ball. We'll see how they do in game-like situations."
One of those is freshman slot back Davone Bess (5-11, 190). About the same size as the dearly departed Chad Owens, Bess has the quickness to make people miss in the open field and the kind of speed to be a legitimate deep threat.
Jones is hopeful junior Chad Mock (5-11, 175) can break through as an outside threat. While Hawaii appears to be stocked with plenty of slot backs, receiver is a different animal.
Junior Jason Rivers (6-2, 187) was the heir apparent to be the deep threat in this offense, but missed spring because of academic problems, then broke his ankle in June while riding a moped. As it turns out, the injury, not academics, will probably sideline Rivers for the year. He was second on the team in receptions last year with 80 for 973 yards and seven touchdowns.
Rivers' loss means Hawaii will be young and under the gun at the key positions on the field.
Cavanaugh left behind a stable of talented offensive linemen, the lone bright spot on an otherwise suspect unit. Four of the five starters return from a year ago, giving Jones some hope that at least his young guns under center will be kept from harm's way.
But the biggest loss is Cavanaugh himself, something Jones conceded during the early days of spring practice.
"We will miss Mike," Jones said. "But at the same time, these guys are so good at what they do, they can basically coach themselves. This will be the strength of our offense, especially in the early going."
The center of attention will be senior Derek Faavi (6-0, 271). The third-year starter is the quarterback of the offensive linemen. He barks commands and lets the other guys in on any last-minute line shifts. Faavi missed the final five games of last year with foot and knee injuries.
Junior left guard Samson Satele (6-2, 278) may not be the leader of the pack, but he is likely the most talented. The freshman All-American and All-WAC performer filled in for Faavi at center last year but will stay at guard as long as Faavi remains healthy. He started all 13 games last year, leading the team in knockdowns with 41. He allowed only three sacks in 636 attempted passes.
Joining him at the other guard spot is former tackle Brandon Eaton (6-2, 291). The senior started eight games at tackle and five at guard last season. He had 34 knockdowns and allowed four sacks.
All-WAC tackle Tala Esera (6-3, 291) will start at the left side with Dane Uperesa (6-5, 328) getting the nod at right tackle. Of the two juniors, Esera was the starter in '04. He finished with 20 knockdowns and allowed only a half-sack. Uperesa saw action in 11 games as a reserve.
Jones also likes junior Jeremy Inferrera (6-2, 284), who should see plenty of action at either tackle spot. Cavanaugh developed depth before departing for Oregon State. New o-line coach Mouse Davis will thank him for that come the fall.
Even though Justin Ayat put the excitement back in the extra-point -- he missed 14 in 98 attempts over the last two seasons -- he will be difficult to replace than Jones might have hoped. Walk-on Nolan Miranda (5-8, 163), who hit 3-of-5 field goals and 21-of-22 PATs two years ago, but didn't play last year, might have been the guy, but he left the program in June.
That leaves three kickers joining the program in the fall. Freshmen Danny Kelly (5-10, 165) of Linfield Christian School in Temecula, Calif., and Chris Chalmers (6-0, 175) of Canyon High School in Canyon Country, Calif. are invited walk-ons. Kelly is from the same area as Eric Hannum, who was a place-kicker five years ago for Hawaii. Kelly made 5-of-6 field goals and all 39 PATs his senior season. It was a mild surprise that the strong-legged Chalmeres was overlooked by southern California schools.
Freshman Jeremy Shibata (5-9, 200) from Iowa City West High School will also join the team in August.
While the O-line has several promising prospects dotting the forward wall, the defensive front may need some time to develop. Missing from the scene are defensive tackles Lui Fuga and Matt Faga, but new defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville believes he has some talented players waiting in the wings.
Chief among them is All-WAC defensive end Melila Purcell (6-4, 266). The senior led the Warriors with six sacks and eight quarterback hurries last season. He was also third on the team in total tackles with 74, including 15 for loss. Purcell will be the defensive leader for the Warriors and will need to reflect that on the field as Hawaii prepares for one of its most difficult schedules.
The right end spot finds two talented players ready to make their marks. Senior Kila Kamakawiwoole (6-3, 241) and junior Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-6, 215) were the leading candidates exiting spring ball. Kamakawiwoole was second among defensive linemen with 48 tackles. He had 8.5 tackles for loss, including three quarterback sacks.
Francis is one of two converted basketball players expected to see significant minutes on the football field. He had 22 tackles in a backup role last year. Joining him up front at end is senior Tony Akpan (6-6, 274). He had 16 tackles in 11 games and is still learning the rigors of Division I-A football.
The real question mark is at tackle. The two projected starters entering fall camp are sophomores Michael Lafaele (6-1, 297) and Ammon Tong (6-0, 254). Their backups are junior Kahai LaCount (6-2, 297) and sophomore Larry Saufea (6-2, 289).
Because Glanville's defense of choice is the 3-4 rather than the 4-3, things could change by the start of the season. Jones was quiet on the potential switch, but it's possible the Warriors will have a three-man front come the season opener with USC.
At the start of fall camp last year, even the defensive coaches needed a program to remember all the new names at linebacker. That won't be a problem this time around as outside backer Tanuvasa Moe (5-11, 210) and middle man Ikaika Curnan (5-10, 221) return for their senior seasons.
Moe started eight games last year, finishing fifth on the team and second among linebackers with 62 tackles, including 6.5 for loss. He missed four games with a hamstring injury and saw limited action during the spring as he tries to enter the fall healthy.
Curnan appeared in 10 games last year, but he was severely hampered by an ankle injury. He still finished with 28 tackles and should improve drastically on those numbers this time around if he can remain healthy.
Sophomores C.J. Allen-Jones (6-2, 204) and Brad Kalilimoku (5-11, 210) are the only remaining linebackers with game experience. Allen-Jones will back up Moe on the weak side. He had 11 tackles last year. Kalilimoku started five games last year and is listed on the strong side. He had 29 tackles as a freshman.
Redshirt freshman Khevin Peoples (5-11, 200) and senior Adam Iloilo (5-11, 230) figure in the mix as well.
You don't have to look hard to find the star of the defensive show. As valuable as Purcell is for the defensive front, senior free safety Leonard Peters (6-1, 184) is equally valuable for the last line of defense.
Not always a good sign for a man in the secondary, Peters led the team in tackles last year with a whopping 120. He managed six tackles for loss, including one quarterback sack. He also finished second on the team in interceptions with four.
"He is the heart and soul of our defense," secondary coach Rich Miano said. "He has a chance to play at the next level, but first we need him to play well for us one last time. He makes everyone around him that much better."
Hawaii did lose All-WAC cornerback Abraham Elimiman to graduation, but Miano views that as more of an opportunity for one of his younger players rather than a loss. Senior Turmarian Moreland (6-0, 194) will get the chance to prove Miano right.
Backing up Elimiman, Moreland saw limited action last season, finishing with 10 tackles. Elimimian led the team in interceptions with five, including one returned for a touchdown.
This year's lockdown corner will be junior Kenny Patton (6-0, 187). With Elimimain across the way, Patton saw plenty of action last year, finishing with 56 tackles in 11 games. He also had three pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
Starting at strong safety will be senior Lono Manners (5-10, 204). He missed the last six games of the season with a foot injury, clearing the way for seniors Lamar Broadway and Landon Kafentziz (6-0, 194) to log significant playing time.
Manners managed 32 tackles in seven games. Broadway, who will likely back up Peters, had 49. He played a lot of minutes at strong safety as well, giving UH a depth-laden secondary.
Junior Kurt Milne (6-0, 196) emerged as the top punter for Hawaii last season. He had a respectable 39.9-yard average on 63 punts, including 19 inside the 20-yard-line. He has yet to have a kick blocked in 117 attempts.
It's hard to say where Chad Owens will be missed most -- at slot back or kick return specialist. Last year, Owens returned five punts for touchdowns. He averaged 14.8 yards on 36 returns. He had only two returns on kickoffs, leaving Ferguson to handle that duty. Ferguson returned 32 kickoffs last year for a 21.2-yard average.
Dickerson also figures in Jones' plans as a return man. He took back 14 kickoffs last year for an average of 21.4 yards. Hawaii did not return a kickoff for a touchdown last season.
"We have a lot of potential guys who are coming in the fall," Jones said. "We'll take a look at them before locking down all the spots on special teams."For the most comprehensive previews available on all 119 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college football, the 2005 Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).