CRAIG KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Leonard Peters raised his arms after completing his sprint test yesterday at UH's opening football practice. Pictured behind Peters is Desmond Thomas.
Confidence comes first in fall camp
Jones works on the team's psyche before getting down to the business of running plays
On the eve of yesterday's Hawaii fall football camp practice, coach June Jones got his players thinking about "breaking barriers." What helps, though, is that the players truly believe they are better than the 5-7 record they posted in 2005.
"Coach Jones put in an inspirational video for us, he did a lot of good things to set the tone for us for where he wants to take us this year," junior quarterback Colt Brennan said after yesterday's 2-hour practice, which included the annual conditioning runs.
"I was here last year when he said we're going to have a great team, and that's what you're supposed to do when you're the coach. But this year we're something different, where you could see everyone was paying attention. There's a lot of opportunity for us to do something great this year, to break some barriers."
The first chance comes Sept. 2, when the Warriors open at Alabama as 14-point underdogs despite returning nearly every player from one of the nation's most prolific offenses.
UH will clearly need help from its defense and special teams. Both must improve vastly, and Jones thinks that process began on defense when he brought Jerry Glanville in as coordinator last year. The recent addition of Dennis McKnight will help the kicking and return game.
"We feel like the kids have really responded to Jerry, which I knew they would," Jones said. "We had a lot different toughness last year that we hadn't had and now we have to put it together and take a big step up."
Much has been said about UH's needs at cornerback. But the Warriors also are replacing two starters at outside linebacker -- Tanuvasa Moe and Kila Kamakawiwo'ole. Neither was a superstar, but both were dependable. And the position's depth took a hit when prospective starter John Fonoti was ruled academically ineligible.
Yesterday, sophomores Tyson Kafentzis and C.J. Allen-Jones took the reps with the first team.
"I feel really confident," Kafentzis said. "I felt like we were ready to turn the corner at the end of the season. Then in spring ball everyone was jelling. And we're just flying around. We don't have to think anymore. Just react and play. The second year in Coach Glanville's system is so simplified, it's a defensive player's dream."
Allen-Jones is hungry after missing almost all of last season after tearing ligaments in his left ankle before the season opener against USC. He aggravated the injury by running steps and then playing against the Trojans.
"This is an opportunity for me to take it and run with it. I just want to get out there and actually do something for the team. I'm hungry to hit somebody, I'm hungry for Alabama. Hopefully we can progress each and every day and we'll be able to step up to the challenge," he said. "Ain't nothing changed. All we've got to do now is play faster and smarter each day. We just have to go out there and play to our ability."
On offense, Brennan and slotback Davone Bess, a freshman All-American last year, looked better than ever during passing drills. And Bess was operating on less than a full night's sleep.
"I was tossing and turning in my bed all night, so excited to come out here and smell the grass, to see the coaches in all black, to see Coach Glanville and Coach (Rich) Miano in their little cowboy hats and what-not," Bess said. "That's exciting. That shows you that the season is here. We live and breathe football, so we're fired up about it.
"Coach Jones showed us a video about Coach (Tony) Dungy, and his son who committed suicide," Bess said. "It was so sad, and it gave us a look at life from a new perspective. He wants us to look at things in different ways."
Whatever his motivational and inspirational methods, Jones knows anticipation is rising for success from the Warriors.
"There's always expectations," Jones said. "It doesn't change for a coach. It's always in the same mind-set. We expect to win. We don't pay much attention to what's being said."