[ UH FOOTBALL ]
Players to hit the practice field
today with big plans for the season
A total of 103 University of Hawaii football players reported for fall camp yesterday and the official start of a highly anticipated season for the Warriors.
Some are veterans like junior kicker Justin Ayat. He said the high expectations by prognosticators who pick UH to win the Western Athletic Conference championship and an increasingly demanding fan base won't distract him and his teammates.
Neither will June Jones' new $4 million contract. If anything, the players are proud of their coach and that he is considered a valuable commodity.
"All the attention, it's good it's positive," Ayat said. "Now it's living up to it. I believe everything I read about us being hyped up. We have a good offense, good defense, a lot of good guys coming in. As a player I believe in it, and showing it to the people and making them believe it."
Some are newcomers like freshman Karl Noa. The invited walk-on from Kamehameha Schools is looking to prove himself.
"My goals are to make the team, hopefully get some size, get bigger and stronger and redshirt," said the 6-foot-3, 210-pound defensive end. "There's a lot of pride in UH; right now it seems like the place to be. I just wanted to find a place I could feel comfortable to play."
The Warriors hope to improve on their 10-4 record of last season. If they are to do so, offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh must succeed in what he said is the biggest challenge of his coaching career. He has less than one month to mold a line with three new starters -- including second-year freshmen Samson Satele and Dane Uperesa at the tackle positions -- into a cohesive unit to protect quarterback Tim Chang.
Cavanaugh said yesterday he can hardly wait to get started.
"I'm so excited about this opportunity," said Cavanaugh, who has sent six players to the NFL in four years.
"We've got guys coming in here and they have great athletic ability. The only thing they don't have is experience, and they're not going to get that until the (first) game. But I think our defense will help us prepare for some tough battles. Our defense is going to be good, real solid up front. Guys like Travis LaBoy, Mel Purcell, Houston Ala, Isaac (Sopoaga) and Lance (Samuseva). They'll get you ready."
Yesterday the players filled out paperwork and were briefed on NCAA, team and school rules in meetings.
The real work starts today with the first practice at 4 p.m. at UH's grass field. At 5, the team will do the dreaded "220s," a series of timed runs up and down the length of the field, each one-eighth of a mile.
Strength and conditioning coach Mel deLaura said he expects more Warriors than ever to complete the runs in the allotted time.
"I think this is the hardest they ever worked (in the off-season), the most guys that ever showed up for the running and the weightlifting. Tomorrow we start to see if all the work they did was quality work, or just showing up. I think they'll be all right."
Today is the first real practice for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers, except for five recruits who will all likely end up at Manoa later.
Defensive back Viliami Nauahi has decided to start his church mission a year earlier than originally planned, according to Siuaki Livai, his coach at Kahuku High School. Another Red Raider DB, Tu Tui, is also going on a mission. Both will be back as freshmen in 2005.
George Perry, a third Kahuku defensive back, is "finishing up some academics and needs more time to get his (entrance) test score up," Livai said.
Defensive lineman Quin Ah You, also of Kahuku, will attend Windward Community College this fall to take a required math class and work toward improving his SAT.
"It will work out for the better," said his father, former CFL star Junior Ah You. "When he gets to UH in the spring he'll be more mature and in even better shape than he is now."
Linebacker Chris Cole, from Mission Viejo, Calif., also has some academic work to complete before he can enroll at UH. It has not been decided if he will go to a mainland junior college or come to Hawaii and attend another college before transferring to UH.
Upgrade: UH sports just became an easier ticket.
Athletic department officials unveiled an upgraded computer system yesterday that will make it more convenient for fans to buy tickets.
The system allows 24-hour purchases via the Internet, and also links UH with Aloha Stadium. The upgrade cost $265,000, which was paid for by 'Ahahui Koa Anuenue, UH's primary booster group.
"We were realistically two, maybe three versions behind in terms of the technology available," associate athletic director Tom Sadler said. "It integrates three separate systems into one and strengthens our partnership with Aloha Stadium all the way around."
Tickets can be purchased online via etickethawaii.com, by phone at (808) 944-2697, and walk-up at Aloha Stadium, UH Campus Center and Windward Community College's OCET Office.
Tickets for the volleyball season-opening NACWAA tournament, Aug. 22 and 23, go on sale today. Football individual game tickets are available starting Aug. 11, women's volleyball single-match tickets go on sale Aug. 13, and tickets for the Los Angeles Lakers' exhibition games at the Stan Sheriff Center will be available later this month.
Sadler also said UH will sell a "WAC Pack" of four Western Athletic Conference home football games.
Also, athletic director Herman Frazier said around 22,000 season-ticket packages have been sold for the home football season, which begins Aug. 30 against Appalachian State.
"It's where we expected. We expected some drop-off. We knew we would lose some fans, more because of the economy than anything else. But we're very happy with the preseason status of the team and where people think we're headed."
He said he will continue to analyze how pay per view TV affects ticket sales.
"I've looked at a report recently. It looks like their sales are going briskly. Over 95 percent were renewed and there have been some single game purchases already. When we get to November we can see what the effect is."