UH to focus on turning the corner in '06
Jones has a solid foundation to work with, and cornerback recruits could finish the puzzle
As his focus switches to recruiting, Hawaii football coach June Jones seems fairly confident defensive coordinator is not a position he will have to fill for 2006.
Jerry Glanville has repeatedly said his intention is to stick around for at least a second season, despite recent overtures from at least two colleges (including his alma mater, Northern Michigan) to become a head coach again.
Glanville seemed comfortable at Sunday's team banquet after the Warriors secured a 5-7 season with a win over San Diego State. His keynote address did not have one hint of it being a farewell as Glanville chatted about the future after the fete -- mainly the need to recruit cornerbacks. He will spend the offseason home in Georgia, but said he will be back in plenty of time for spring practice.
"Whatever June says," is Glanville's mantra when asked about his future at Manoa.
But Jones knows if the right opportunity comes along, his former NFL boss might saddle up.
"Yeah, I don't anticipate him (leaving) unless he gets a head (coaching) job," Jones said yesterday. "If he gets a head job, I would anticipate if it's the one he wants, he'll go. But I know he had a lot of fun, he loved the kids and he loves Hawaii now, like I knew he would."
Offensive lineman Samson Satele is another key figure for 2006 who might not be back if the right opportunity comes along. Satele -- named first-team All-WAC yesterday along with safety Lono Manners and receiver Davone Bess -- said he will make himself available for the NFL Draft instead of returning for his senior year if the league projects him as a first- or second-round choice.
"I'm not really going to worry about it until it happens," said Jones, who had receiver Ashley Lelie and left tackle Wayne Hunter leave a season early in previous years. "If he's rated as a high draft pick he probably needs to go. He can't afford to risk injury. But if he's not, then he needs to come back."
Jones said a strong senior season at center (instead of left guard, where he's played most of his career) could have Satele climbing the charts.
The starting tackles, Tala Esera on the left and Dane Uperesa on the right, both return. Guard candidates include veterans Marques Kaonohi and Hercules Satele and freshman John Estes.
Sophomore starting quarterback Colt Brennan (who leads the nation in passing yardage and touchdowns) and all four receivers come back. That includes slotbacks Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen, who both had a grand time as the first duo in school history to amass at least 1,000 yards apiece receiving in the same season -- and they did it as freshmen.
"To say I anticipated I would have two freshmen who went over a thousand yards in Ryan and Davone, I'd be lying to you," Jones said.
Cornerback Kenny Patton will experiment at wideout in the spring, and starters Ross Dickerson and Chad Mock are also coming back for their senior seasons. Jones said Patton might play both offense and defense.
"We're gonna try to get him plugged in this spring and see how much he can contribute, both sides," Jones said.
Nate Ilaoa has the inside track at running back, if the NCAA grants him an additional season because of injuries. Ilaoa abused San Diego State for 211 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Is converted defensive tackle Reagan Mauia really a running back now?
"Yes, he is," Jones said, and then after a pause: "A big one."
He's too big now at around 350 pounds, but Mauia still mauled the Aztecs for 56 yards on 10 carries, including a 10-yard TD.
"It looked like a couple of those San Diego Staters were looking for a place to hide," Jones said. "It gives them a little different look. He could be an every-down back. He's got really soft hands."
Jones said he wants Mauia to get down to around 270 pounds.
The defense loses at least four solid starters in outside linebackers Kila Kamakawiwo'ole and Tanuvasa Moe and safeties Manners and Lamar Broadway (defensive tackle Mel Purcell will likely regain a lost season of eligibility). But Jones thinks there's enough talent around to fill the holes up front. On the outside, the coaches like freshman Brashton Satele and Tyson Kafentzis, and Brad Kalilimoku is a candidate to move outside to make room for Adam Leonard inside. Glanville hasn't given up on Khevin Peoples or C.J. Allen-Jones, who will both be sophomores. Precocious inside linebacker Solomon Elimimian led UH with 83 tackles.
Michael Lafaele, Keala Watson and Ikaika Alama-Francis are all back up front.
The secondary will have to be rebuilt, though. Ryan Keomaka ended his season with WAC Player of the Week honors for nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery against San Diego State. But he was also burned on numerous occasions by the Aztecs' passing game.
Freshman C.J. Tausaga will also get a long look at corner, as well as Keao Monteilh, who started five games this year. But Jones hopes to sign some corners who can challenge them right away.
Kirk Alexander and B.J. Fruean are promising candidates at safety, and either could be a nice pairing with Leonard Peters if the leading tackler of 2004 gets another year from the NCAA to make up for his knee injury.
Jones said the defense improved at the end of the season.
"I thought they got a grasp on playing aggressively and we tackled better and we gang-tackled good. We were constantly trying to cover up some of the holes we knew we had. But all in all, I'm happy with the direction we're going. I think the kids believe in what we're doing and Jerry did a great job with getting them plugged in."
Freshman Dan Kelly showed promise at kicker, and Kurt Milne was steady again at punter. But the Warriors need to improve at all aspects of special-teams play; kicking-game lapses cost them a win against Boise State that could've been the key to a fifth consecutive winning season.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ryan Keomaka, who started three games at cornerback in 2005, returns next season.
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The University of Hawaii football team will have up to 33 players who started games in 2005 eligible to play in 2006. The number of games at position started are in parentheses.
» Ikaika Alama-Francis (12, DT)
» Davone Bess (12, SB)
» Colt Brennan (10, QB)
» Ross Dickerson (12, WR)
» Solomon Elimimian (10, ILB)
» Tala Esera (12, LT)
» David Farmer (2, RB)
» Jason Ferguson (1, SB)
» Renolds Fruean (2, DT)
» Tyler Graunke (2, QB)
» Ryan Grice-Mullen (11, SB)
» Mikhael Kafentzis (1, RB) » Brad Kalilimoku (12, ILB)
» Dan Kelly (12, K)
» Ryan Keomaka (3, CB)
» Mike Lafaele (9, NT)
» Reagan Mauia (1, NT)
» Kurt Milne (12, P)
» Chad Mock (7, WR)
» Keao Monteilh (5, CB)
» Kenny Patton (10, CB)
» Dane Porlas (1, FS)
» Samson Satele (12, LG)
» Larry Sauafea (1, RG)
» Jordan Slye (1, WR)
» Dane Uperesa (11, WR)
» Michael Washington (1, WR)
» Keala Watson (1, DT)
The following players are petitioning the NCAA for an additional season:
» Nate Ilaoa (7, RB)
» Bryan Maneafaiga (1, RB)
» Leonard Peters (1, FS)
» Melila Purcell (8, DT)
» Ian Sample (3, WR)