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Friday, August 26, 2005



WARRIOR FOOTBALL


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SB FILE PHOTOS
From left, Bryan Maneafaiga will start at running back for UH, Jason Ferguson at one of the slotback spots and Ross Dickerson and Ian Sample at receiver.



Offense falling
into place

UH coach Jones names starters
at running back, receiver and
slotback -- but not quarterback

A once-hazy picture of the Hawaii offense appears to be coming into focus.

With a little more than a week left before the Warriors' season opener against Southern California, several positions have been solidified on a new-look UH offense that entered fall camp with several holes to fill.


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Davone Bess: Freshman will be one of Hawaii's starting slotbacks


While Tyler Graunke and Colt Brennan continue to share repetitions at quarterback, UH coach June Jones said senior running back Bryan Maneafaiga will likely start in the backfield against the Trojans on Sept. 3 at Aloha Stadium, while Ross Dickerson and Ian Sample are slated to start at wide receiver.

"They've been getting more reps and they've been doing the right things and that's what gets them on the field," Jones said of Dickerson and Sample, the Warriors' most experienced receivers.

On the inside, Jason Ferguson and Davone Bess have emerged as the top slotbacks. Ferguson will also be the primary punt returner.

UH lost all four of its starting receivers and its top two running backs from last season, as well as record-setting quarterback Tim Chang.

Maneafaiga carried the ball four times for 19 yards last season and scored his first Division I touchdown against Nevada. He's been the first back in the rotation for much of fall camp, and will share playing time with junior Kala Latuselu.

"(Playing last year) helped me a lot. I pretty much knew what to do, it was just about getting better at doing it," Maneafaiga said.

Maneafaiga and Latuselu fill the spots vacated by Michael Brewster and West Keli'ikipi, who combined to rush for 1,058 yards last season.

With a new set of quarterbacks and receivers learning UH's run-and-shoot offense, the running game could be more of a factor this season.

"I think I can help the team running the ball," Maneafaiga said. "I think it's going to help us take the pressure off the quarterback. We can be more balanced."

Dickerson, a junior, started two games last year and has caught 23 passes for 200 yards in his UH career. Sample worked his way into the rotation and caught seven passes for 71 yards before a shoulder injury ended his season after playing just four games.

"Those are our two veterans," UH receivers coach Ron Lee said. "They're our leaders, they need to play at a higher level. They're getting better every day. ... Come Saturday they need to step up and show us the way. They've waited a while for this chance, now it's up to them to make the best of it.

"Ian was playing great until he dislocated his shoulder, and he's done a good job now. I'd like to see Ross be more steady and consistent. When he does catch the ball he does a good job with it."

Ferguson had been hampered by a back injury earlier in camp, but has returned to form in practice. The 5-foot-5 sophomore saw most of his action as a kick returner last year. Bess, a freshman, has been among the Warriors' most sure-handed receivers.

Ryan Grice-Mullen and Nate Ilaoa have been slowed by injuries in practice, but should also figure into the mix.

"They're getting there, I feel we're on schedule," Lee said of the receiver corps. "We just need to mentally be ready to step in there and pick it up.

"I think they've met most of their goals. We still have a week and a half to get ready for the first game, and they're starting to come along. It's what they do on Saturday, that's what I'm excited to see."

A seasoned offensive line led by center Derek Fa'avi, guards Samson Satele and Brandon Eaton and tackles Dane Uperesa and Tala Esera has remained relatively stable.

Esera was held out of yesterday's practice with a sore neck. Jones doesn't think the junior will miss much time. Keith Ah-Soon worked with the first unit in Esera's place.


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Chang signs with Lions

Tim Chang's got a new uniform, and its color is Honolulu Blue.


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Tim Chang: Joins fellow Saint Louis alumnus Raiola in Detroit


That's the hue the Detroit Lions wear. After Chang worked out for them yesterday, the Lions announced they would sign the former Hawaii quarterback to a free-agent contract.

The Lions have veterans Joey Harrington and Jeff Garcia. Chang will presumably compete with Dan Orlovsky and Todd Mortensen for the third spot or a practice squad slot.

Don Yee, whose agency represents Chang, isn't sure what to expect with a cut-down day looming.

"It's hard to say right now," Yee said in a phone interview last night. "He just has to start practicing and we'll see where it goes from there."

Lions coach Steve Mariucci said signing Chang could be an investment in the future.

"We want to take a good look at him and see how he learns our offense, or if he is a guy that is a candidate to bring back at another time, that sort of thing," Mariucci said on the Lions' Web site. "We have seen him play on film in a very exciting offense, but since he is available -- he was in the Arizona camp -- we may want to take a little bit closer look."

The Lions' starting center is Dominic Raiola. Like Chang, Raiola is a graduate of Saint Louis School.

Chang ended his college career at UH with an NCAA-record 17,072 yards passing. After going undrafted, he signed a free-agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals, but was cut Aug. 9 before the first preseason game.



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