New guy taking his place on O-line
John Estes hopes to hold off Larry Sauafea to earn his first college start
This time last year, John Estes was a wide-eyed freshman just trying to get his bearings with the Hawaii football team.
In just his second fall camp with the Warriors, Estes is now working to protect his place among the starters on the offensive line.
Estes was penciled in as the starter at right guard after spring practice and is the lone member of the starting five -- which includes seniors Dane Uperesa, Samson Satele and Tala Esera and sophomore Hercules Satele -- without a college start.
"You look at Dane, Tala, Sam, Herc, they're all great players, to me, All-WAC candidates," Estes said. "I put pressure on myself to try to play up to their level. I don't want to be the weak link.
"It's good playing next to all the guys who have been here four years, five years. ... They always make the right calls, they give me good advice and they help me out almost every play and they're good role models."
The middle of the offensive line underwent a renovation after the Warriors lost center Derek Fa'avi and guard Brandon Eaton to graduation. Samson Satele moved over from left guard to center, and was replaced by his cousin, Hercules Satele.
With the right guard spot vacant, Estes, a little known redshirt and a member of the scout team last fall, impressed the coaches enough during the spring to earn a spot on the first team heading into the summer.
"It felt good when I first saw that," Estes said. "I was proud of myself because I tried very hard this past spring to try to elevate my game. Last year, I was on the scout team trying to bring myself up to the starting five's level and get bigger and stronger."
UH coach June Jones hasn't shied away from starting freshmen along the offensive front in the past, with Samson Satele, Esera and Uriah Moenoa among those earning starting jobs with little college experience.
Although he's getting the first-team reps now, Estes' place among the starters isn't exactly locked. In order to be on the field for the Sept. 2 opener at Alabama, he'll first have to hold off junior Larry Sauafea over the next three weeks.
"It's pretty close," Jones said. "Larry and he are both competing and they're both doing a good job."
Said Estes: "I know (Sauafea's) been in there every day putting his work in. We push each other and we're making ourselves better. I have to elevate my game, because I know if I fall down and mess up he's going to take my spot."
Estes spent most of the summer in Honolulu working out with the returnees to prepare for the season and has already won the trust of one of the players depending on a solid performance from the freshman.
"He's taken on the role," quarterback Colt Brennan said. "In the spring he was running with the first group and this summer he worked hard and he showed that he wanted to step up and take that. For a young kid to do that, not just go through the motions but kind of step up and take hold of that position, he did a great job with that.
"He's pretty tenacious, and he's pretty mean, which is always good for an O-lineman to have."
Listed at 275 last year, Estes' work this summer pushed him up to 290 and has proved to be a quick study with the Warriors' blocking assignments.
"He's mature and smart and he's a good student so that probably carries over into learning things," said graduate-assistant Dennis McKnight, who works with the offensive line. "So once you learn and pick up things, now whatever physical abilities you have can just come naturally and faster. For him, he's a fast learner, smart kid.
"He's as good a young guy as I've seen. His leverage, his balance, his recover-ability, he's pretty darn impressive."
Estes signed with UH in 2005 out of St. Mary's High School in Stockton, Calif., but has strong ties to Hawaii. He has a cousin on the roster in senior defensive lineman Kahai LaCount. Rockne Freitas, a former NFL player and member of the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame, is his uncle.
DB leaves team: Defensive back Chris Camacho has left the team and plans to transfer to another Division I school.
Camacho, a junior transfer from Citrus (Calif.) College, said he was given his release on Wednesday and is scheduled to return to the mainland today. He said he'll use his redshirt year this season and didn't want to elaborate on his reasons for leaving or where he might end up next.
"The team is going to be good this year, and I just wish them the best," Camacho said yesterday.
Camacho was expected to contend for a starting job at cornerback coming out of Citrus, where he was an all-conference defensive back. Juniors A.J. Martinez and C.J. Hawthorne have been the starting cornerbacks in fall camp.
"You're always surprised when a guy doesn't fight through adversity, but guys have to what they have to do," Jones said.
"I thought he looked pretty good," he added. "He's competitive, and I thought that he was going to be competitive for a job. But obviously he thought maybe the other guys were doing a little bit better and he wanted to play football. Like I said, no matter where you go you're going to have competition. ... He's a good kid, I liked him and thought he had what it takes to be successful."
Camacho is the second defensive back to leave the team. Freshman Geoff Hayth left last week. Neither scholarship or roster spot has been filled as yet.
"It does free up (a scholarship) but there's some limitations on what it is, so we're probably not going to do anything with it for a while," Jones said.
Injury update: Samson Satele sat out yesterday's practice with a strained Achilles, and is listed as day-to-day. Senior Marques Kaonohi stepped in at center with the first team.
"If we had to play a game today he be fine, but he knows what he's doing and there's no use pushing it," Jones said.
Martinez stayed on the sideline for the second half of practice with a strained hip and expects to be back today. Senior Kenny Patton, a starter last season, took his place with the first unit.
Linebacker Solomon Elimimian returned to action a day after sitting out due to dehydration. Linebacker Brashton Satele and receiver Jason Ferguson sat out another day as they recover from injuries.