Monday, April 5, 2004



Rebuilding the Warriors' defense

Hawaii focuses on restructuring
a defensive unit that only returns
two full-time starters

Spring football practice will always be considered a waste of time and effort by some. Not the Hawaii coaching staff, though.

And not players who have spent years mired at third or fourth on the depth chart, practicing every day but watching games from the sideline. Especially not this year, as UH will try for a fourth consecutive winning season with almost a completely new cast on defense.

Practice makes perfect

The University of Hawaii football team begins spring drills tomorrow.

» The first 14 of 15 practices are 7 to 9 a.m. at the UH grass practice field and are open to the public free of charge.

» The dates are April 6-8, 12-15, 21-23 and 26-29.

» The final practice is a scrimmage scheduled for May 1, possibly at Aloha Stadium.

The Warriors, who open camp tomorrow on campus, have too many people to replace to think of spring as a fling. Only two full-time defensive starters -- cornerback Abraham Elimimian and linebacker Ikaika Curnan -- return from last year, and even they are being asked to try new positions this spring. Curnan, last year's leading tackler, moves from the outside to the middle, and Elimimian, after a spectacular season at right corner, shifts to the left side.

UH is going into its sixth season under coach June Jones. Such a massive restructuring earlier in his tenure might have been disastrous because of a lack of depth. In fact, losing just a few key starters like tackle Tony Tuioti, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich and cornerback Quincy LeJay after Jones' first season in 1999 was a major factor in the team's drop from 9-4 to 3-9.

Considering how many quality, experienced veterans the Warriors must do without this fall, a similar drop-off seems quite possible. But Jones and defensive coordinator George Lumpkin both said UH has recruited and trained enough capable players to fill the breech. Spring practice is when many of them get to prove they're ready to make the jump from backup to starter.

"We've got some good guys who have been with us for years, learning the way we do things," Lumpkin said. "It's just a matter of getting them on the field. They've been running the system and they understand it. "We've got the same kind of people as before. We just have to plug them in."

And if they don't fit? Help is on its way in August.

"The numbers this spring are a little low because we have a lot of kids coming in the fall, including some guys who can challenge to start," Jones said. "We feel like we have people coming in and people on campus who are good players and certainly can grow into replacing the guys that we're losing."

Junior Ikaika Curnan, one of two returning starters on defense, is moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker this spring.

The most glaring exodus is at defensive line. Although Al Noga and Company put up better numbers in the 1980s, last year's front four might have been the program's deepest and most talented. However, all four regular starters (including two locks for the NFL Draft) and two capable backups completed their eligibility at the end of the 2003 season.

Tackles Lui Fuga, Matt Faga and Abu Ma'afala played extensively last year and are being counted on heavily this fall. There will be even more pressure on the latter two if Fuga is not granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

And here is where spring practice is most important for UH: defensive end. Tony Akpan and Ikaika Alama-Francis are still learning the basics of how to play football after leaving the basketball team last spring for the gridiron. But Jones is depending on them to play this year, and not just in mop-up duty, like last fall.

"Athletically we have guys who will fill the (defensive end) spots and might eventually be better than Travis (LaBoy)," Jones said. "We have three guys who potentially could be -- Karl Noa, Tony Akpan and Ikaika Alama-Francis. Those guys have tremendous talent.

"And Mel Purcell, I think, may be the best player at the D-line I've had since I've been here and he's bigger and stronger and got some good experience last year."

So while "spring" and "football" are two words that seemingly go together like "warm" and "beer," the concept is a crucial one this month for Hawaii's defense this fall.

Mel Purcell was in on seven tackles while starting for ineligible Travis LaBoy in the Hawaii Bowl.


Hawaii lost most of the starters and key backups from a talented defensive squad last season. Here's who the Warriors must replace:

Name Pos. Career
Houston Ala DE 44/133 Started games all four seasons
Keani Alapa LB 41/163 Team's best pass-defending LB
David Gilmore S 45/142 Consistently made big plays
Kevin Jackson DE 47/75 Valuable backup for three seasons
Chad Kalilimoku LB 28/112 Hard-hitting intimidator

Name Pos. Career
Travis LaBoy DE 34/193 WAC player of the year
Kelvin Millhouse CB 40/150 First-team All-WAC, 13 career INTs
Hyrum Peters S 48/295 Two-time first-team All-WAC, captain
Lance Samuseva DT 49/154 Dependable three-year starter
Isaac Sopoaga DT 25/128 Possible first-round NFL Draft pick


A position-by-position breakdown
of the Hawaii Warriors

Here is a position-by-position look at the Hawaii football team as it goes into spring camp tomorrow, with thoughts from coach June Jones:

* * *

A replacement must be found for Jeremiah Cockheran, UH's main deep threat of last season. Junior Mike Akiu and sophomore Ross Dickerson, a converted slot, will get long looks. Big and fast Marcus Weems might finally shed his rawness and make a move this spring.

Returning starters: Gerald Welch (13 games), Britton Komine (12), Chad Owens (10) Jason Rivers (5), Ross Dickerson (2), Nate Ilaoa (1), Sean Stennis (1).

Jones' take: "I want to find out about some of these other guys; Lenny Boatner, Denny Flanagan, Jason Ferguson. Se'e (Poumele is) a solid player, Gerald (Welch is) solid. They'll take some reps, but we know what they are. (Weems) has been working out hard and every year he gets a little better. He has the speed and the size. He'll get a lot of reps this spring."

* * *

Eight linemen who started games last year are in camp and there will be plenty of competition from others, too.

Returning starters: Derek Faavi (14), Samson Satele (14), Uriah Moenoa (13), Brandon Eaton (9), Tala Esera (9), Jeremy Inferrera (8), Phil Kauffman (1), Dane Uperesa (1).

Jones' take: "We know a lot about them, but we're really young. Uriah probably won't do a whole lot this spring. There are guys down the line I'd like to find out about, Larry Sauafea shows great promise, Hercules Satele will get a lot of reps, Mike Lafaele will get a lot of reps. Guys that we haven't seen a lot of."

* * *

When Tim Chang throws, it will be on the side. The team reps will be devoted to finding his understudy.

Returning starter: Tim Chang (11).

Jones' take: "They'll all get equal reps. And we've got three freshmen. I'm going to give those freshmen every opportunity in the fall to show what they can do. These kids right now get an opportunity in the spring to show what they can do."

* * *

Mike Bass and Michael Brewster have already proven themselves, and West Keli'ikipi is rehabbing after a second knee surgery. That means Kala Latuselu and freshman Alonzo Chopp get to show what they've got.

Returning starters: West Keliikipi (6), Michael Brewster (6), Mike Bass (1).

Jones' take: "I don't know much about Chopp yet, but we'll find out in a hurry. Both Michaels played real solid football for us last year."

* * *

Last year the Warriors had to replace three starting linebackers. This time the defensive line gets a complete overhaul.

Returning starters: Mel Purcell (3), Abu Ma'afala (1).

Jones' take: "Abu Ma'afala has tremendous quickness inside and has studded up this offseason. He has a chance to be a really good player. We think Matt Faga will be solid. And we have a lot of incoming recruits we think will help us up front."

* * *

It's anyone's guess who will flank Ikaika Curnan when the season starts. Incoming freshmen Khevin Peoples and Carl Stokes will get a chance to compete in fall camp.

Returning starters: Ikaika Curnan (14), Lincoln Manutai (2), Chad Kapanui (2).

Jones' take: "More bodies here than any position. We only play three and we've got 20 of them out. I'm anxious to see our young linebackers like Timo Paepule and Daniel Tautofi this spring. We're thinking of making (Tautofi) a defensive end, he keeps getting bigger. Watson Ho'ohuli won't be out in the spring (knee injury), but he's coming back. T.J. Moe gets a chance, and I think he can play."

* * *

Kelvin Millhouse is gone after three seasons of holding down one corner, and Hyrum Peters must be replaced at safety.

Returning starters: Abraham Elimimian (14), Leonard Peters (7).

Jones' take: "I think Abraham will be seen as one of the top corners in the country. Kenny Patton will be very solid on the other side. Omega Hogan has kept getting better and better. I'm anxious to see Ernest Powell because he competed really hard on the scout team and has the talent to be there. Cameron Hollingsworth deserves an opportunity.

"Safetywise, A.J. Martinez won't be out there (shoulder injury) but can compete for a starting spot. Leonard Peters won't be out there either (also shoulder). Lamar Broadway has potential, has really improved and has some cover ability. Lono Manners looks good, Matt Manuma's back and there are some walk-on kids I'm anxious to see, like Paul Carroll."


2004 Hawaii Spring Football

(Players listed alphabetically by position; classes listed are for 2004 season)

WR (X, Left Wideout)
No. Name (Ht., Wt., Cl.)
84 Britton Komine (5-10, 187, Sr.)
85 Jason Rivers (6-2, 187, So.)
NA Ian Sample (5-10, 186, Jr.)
89 Marcus Weems (6-3, 185, Jr.)
WR (H, Left Slotback)
NA Jason Ferguson (5-5, 154, Fr.)
18 Blake Harano (5-5, 145, Sr.)
2 Chad Owens (5-9, 174, Sr.)
NA Cheyne Todani (5-6, 174, Jr.)
23 Orlando Wong (6-1, 199, Fr.)
70 Tala Esera (6-3, 283, So.)
73 Larry Sauafea (6-2, 269, Fr.)
72 Dane Uperesa (6-5, 318, So.)
75 Chad Kahale (6-2, 328, Sr.)
65 Hercules Satele (6-3, 289, Fr.)
64 Samson Satele (6-3, 289, So.)
59 Derek Faavi (6-1, 273, Jr.)
60 Marques Kaonohi (6-1, 270, So.)
62 Kamana Kauahi (6-1, 235, Fr.)
63 Michael Lafaele (6-0, 294, Fr.)
67 Phil Kauffman (6-1, 291, Sr.)
69 Uriah Moenoa (6-2, 365, Sr.)
66 Brandon Eaton (6-3, 287, Jr.)
76 Jonathan Ekno (6-4, 307, Sr.)
74 Jeremy Inferrera (6-2, 281, So.)
WR (Y, Right Slotback)
35 Lenny Boatner (5-11, 173, Fr.)
4 Nate Ilaoa (5-9, 211, So.)
NA Patrick Olochovy (5-8, 160, Fr.)
7 Se'e Poumele (5-9, 179, Sr.)
38 Gerald Welch (5-8, 205, Sr.)
WR (Z, Right Wideout)
83 Mike Akiu (5-8, 173, Jr.)
82 Ross Dickerson (5-10, 172, So.)
NA Nolan Lee (6-4, 174, Fr.)
15 Sean Stennis (5-10, 160, So.)
9 Kainoa Akina (5-11, 187, Jr.)
14 Tim Chang (6-2, 194, Sr.)
12 Jeffrey Rhode (6-5, 224, Jr.)
17 Jack Rolovich (6-3, 213, Fr.)
11 Ryan Stickler (6-2, 218, So.)
1 Mike Bass (5-7, 174, Sr.)
6 Michael Brewster (5-6, 180, Sr.)
NA Alonzo Chopp (6-0, 206, Fr.)
NA Bryan Hinton (5-8, 184, Jr.)
16 West Keli'ikipi (6-1, 266, Sr.)
44 Kala Latuselu (5-11, 215, So.)
NA Nathan Taylor (5-4, 171, Fr.)

No. Name (Ht., Wt., Cl.)
90 Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan (6-7, 254, Jr.)
NA Justin Faimealelei (6-1, 256, Jr.)
52 Karl Noa (6-4, 209, Fr.)
95 Darrell Tautofi (6-2, 281, Sr.)
91 Matt Faga (6-2, 380, Sr.)
99 Lui Fuga (6-1, 299, Sr.)
68 Kahai LaCount (6-3, 308, So.)
94 Abu Ma'afala (6-3, 261, Jr.)
96 Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-6, 215, So.)
30 Kila Kamakawiwo'ole (6-2, 240, Jr.)
98 Mel Purcell (6-5, 258, Jr.)
STUB (Strongside Linebacker)
48 Patrick Lavar Harley (6-0, 212, Sr.)
5 Chad Kapanui (6-0, 225, Sr.)
NA Zachary Lee-Ho (5-7, 196, So.)
41 Anipati Mailo (6-1, 246, Jr.)
53 Daniel Tautofi (6-2, 245, Fr.)
MACK (Middle Linebacker)
51 Ikaika Curnan (5-11, 210, Jr.)
86 Alika Durington (6-1, 230, Jr.)
55 Watson Ho'ohuli (6-0, 216, Sr.)
49 Timo Paepule (6-0, 229, Fr.)
59 Rustin Saole (5-11, 215, So.)
WILL (Weakside Linebacker)
34 Ikaika Blackburn (5-11, 220, Sr.)
10 Tyrone Brown (6-0, 212, Sr.)
NA Micah Lau (5-9, 200, Fr.)
50 Lincoln Manutai (6-0, 224, Sr.)
45 Tanuvasa Moe (6-0, 220, Jr.)
NA Daniel Murray (5-10, 191, Sr.)
29 Kilinahe Noa (5-11, 228, Sr.)
44 Laiana Wong (5-10, 222, So.)
31 Ray Bass (5-10, 174, Fr.)
37 Abraham Elimimian (5-10, 191, Sr.)
28 Cameron Hollingsworth (5-11, 167, Jr.)
25 A.J. Martinez (6-0, 179, Fr.)
JILL (Free Safety)
9 Matt Manuma (6-1, 209, Sr.)
42 Leonard Peters (6-1, 181, Jr.)
SAM (Strong Safety)
22 Lamar Broadway (5-11, 176, Jr.)
NA Paul Carroll (6-0, 200, Sr.)
35 Patrick Jenkins (6-1, 182, Sr.)
15 Lono Manners (5-10, 186, Jr.)
36 Omega Hogan (5-7, 159, Jr.)
24 Kenny Patton (6-0, 181, So.)
39 Ernest Powell (5-9, 164, Fr.)
NA Thomas Frazier (6-0, 282, Sr.)
NA Frank Pojsl (6-4, 248, Jr.)
NA Chris Williams (6-0, 232, Jr.)
NA Victor Fergerstrom (5-9, 192, So.)
NA Jayson Malufau (5-10, 171, Fr.)
NA Brett Nakamura (6-0, 193, Jr.)
NA Trumaine Oto (5-9, 177, Fr.)
NA Christopher Price-White (5-7, 176, So.)
NA Dan Principe (5-10, 169, So.)

No. Name (Ht., Wt., Cl.)
25 Kurt Milne (6-0, 204, So.)
40 Tim Wright (6-5, 210, So.)
47 Justin Ayat (5-11, 205, Sr.)
26 Nolan Miranda (5-8, 172, So.)


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