FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii football coach June Jones said this year's team is the most talented group he's had at UH.
UH’s Jones speaks out on 2006 season
With fall camp on the horizon, Hawaii football coach June Jones sat down Saturday with Star-Bulletin sports writer Dave Reardon and Warriors radio broadcast announcers Bobby Curran and Robert Kekaula to answer questions about the upcoming season.
First of two parts; Tomorrow, part two.
Q: Is this your most talented team in eight years at Hawaii?
A: I think it's the most talented group we've had since I've been here, yeah. Pretty much in every spot. I say that hesitantly until we see everyone, especially the corners. But athletically, with who we've recruited, I think we're talented there, too.
Q: How long is it until you feel like you know what you have?
A: There are not a whole lot of unknowns. Last year there was a bunch of unknowns. Quarterback, I didn't know how the receivers were gonna play except for Ross (Dickerson). We had guys, but no one who'd done it. Defensively we were kind of in the same boat with a freshman linebacker (Solomon Elimimian), Ikaika Alama-Francis played a little bit the year before (at defensive end), Michael Lafaele moved from offensive line to nose tackle, so there were a lot of unknowns last year. This year we'll know a lot faster because it's more of a veteran team.
Q: You're opening at Alabama. Does this team have the ability to compete and win there?
A: The toughest games are always on the road. We have to play a perfect game to win, but we can do that.
Q: When you have depth, especially on offense, what do you do when one of the new guys, say a slot guy, walks in and you say, wow, this guy is better than Davone Bess?
A: (Laughs) Well, the best guy plays. That's what I've always told them. It doesn't matter if it's a scholarship guy or a walk-on. The kids know that. We've got some good wideouts, but we've got some pretty good guys coming in now.
Q: You have a running back (Nate Ilaoa) who is an established threat. How does that affect how teams approach trying to defend you?
A: It's an advantage if they put DBs in the game. Most teams play us with five DBs. Nate hasn't missed a workout and he's in pretty good shape. If he stays healthy, he's going to create some problems.
Q: Are you prepared to give the ball to Nate 25 times against Alabama, run it down their throat a little bit?
A: You go back and look at games. Every team pretty much plays us the same way. Alabama plays a little bit more man-to-man than we see normally. They have good athletes and can come up and bump-and-run you. They have a whole summer to work on it. My philosophy is always you better do what you do, or we'll beat you. If you try to do something you're not used to doing, we've got the advantage. They're a man-to-man team. If they get into playing a whole lot of zone, they'll get frustrated and go back to man-to-man. I don't see us changing a whole lot, changing the back as much.
Q: Is Reagan (Mauia) a much better blocker than Nate?
A: Yes. He's unbelievable as a blocker. And he's down to 285 pounds.
Q: If you had to start tomorrow, who would you say would be the starting outside (receiver) guys?
A: Ian Sample had a great spring, but I don't know if he's going to be there (he's awaiting an eligibility extension from the NCAA). Jason Rivers has really practiced hard and Chad Mock has stepped up. I would say Ian Sample has shown the most potential, Jason and Ross are pretty solid.
Q: Is that group close enough where you might do some version of a platoon?
A: We have some guys that have played and I know what they have done, so there may be more than one guy playing regularly. Toward the end of the year we had some rotating going. More guys will probably play this year because I know they know what they're doing.
Fonoti declared academically ineligible
John Fonoti, listed No. 1 on the Hawaii football team's depth chart at strongside outside linebacker after spring practice, won't play for the Warriors this fall.
Fonoti is academically ineligible for this season, but he could eventually return to the team. His name is not on the current UH roster on the team's Web site.
He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Farrington graduate was a special-teams standout as a freshman wedgebuster last season. He was in on seven tackles on kickoff coverage and as a backup at outside linebacker to senior Kila Kamakawiwo'ole. Fonoti, who played in nine games, also had a quarterback hurry.
Second-year freshman Brashton Satele ended spring camp at No. 2 behind Fonoti. Satele is also considered a candidate to play at inside linebacker, where sophomores Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard are returning starters.
Amani Purcell, who played defensive end at Penn State, needs to complete just one more summer school class to be eligible this year at UH. The current plan is for him to get a long look at strongside outside linebacker.
George Lumpkin, who coaches the outside linebackers, said the competition will be wide open. Players report for fall camp Aug. 3.
"I don't know. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out. We've got a lot of guys that can do it," Lumpkin said.
Dave Reardon, Star-Bulletin
What's (slotback) Jason Ferguson's status?
A: We're hoping he'll be ready (after a second ACL surgery) to play four or five games into the season. We'd like to have him returning kicks and punts.
Q: How is Sam Satele adjusting to center?
A: He is very committed. I can see it in him. All those guys, Sam, Tala (Esera), Dane (Uperesa), and some younger guys coming up. The offensive line looks good.
Q: It seems (quarterback) Colt Brennan has become a strong leader, respected and liked by his teammates.
A: When you have success it breeds a lot of that. Colt had a great year numbers-wise, and he was tough and all those things teammates want to see. They kind of gravitate to guys like that, and I think Tyler (Graunke, backup quarterback) has the same qualities.
Q: Colt left a lot of yards and a handful of touchdowns on the field. Is he at a point where he'll get those?
A: I think what you described happened in the first 10 games. At the end, he was doing it correctly. I really felt like the light came on against San Diego State. He might have made one bad throw in that game. It wasn't a bad decision, just a bad throw. Even through the spring, everything was confident, quicker, faster. He's got a quick release anyway.
Q: Does he have complete comprehension of the playbook?
A: I'd say last year when we started on a scale of 10 he was a 2. Now he's probably a 7 1/2 or 8. And as we get going, he'll get better. I know he'll do what I call now and make the reads. Last year I didn't know what would happen. There was a lot of stuff he wasn't sure about, but he competed.
Q: Where is he in physical talent, if you rate him compared to Dan Robinson, Nick (Rolovich) and Timmy (Chang)?
A: He's the best, I think, natural quarterback we've had. His accuracy is pretty incredible.
Q: Do you want him to change his (three-quarters) delivery?
A: It doesn't bother me. I know we had more tipped balls last year than we've had. But at the same time he makes a lot of throws because of his delivery -- through angles, through holes that no one else can make. So it's kind of a trade-off. And I don't think you can change a guy at this point in his life.
Q: As you talk to typical fans this summer, do you sense more anticipation? Do they realize this is a talented team?
A: Football is always No. 1 here, so it's always felt the same to me. But I think winning does that more than anything else.
Q: Is the attitude of the fans you encounter that you can beat Alabama?
A: It's changed to what you want it to be. Who would've thought eight years ago that would be changed? Nobody. That's what winning does. It creates expectations. Can we beat them? Yeah we can beat 'em. But the bottom line is we're going to have to play as good a game as we can play to do it.