13 days to determine UH starters
Several position battles are still too close to call for Hawaii with 13 days to go before the football season kicks off at Alabama.
Competition remains tightest at wide receiver and both guard positions on offense, as well as at left cornerback, strong safety and the outside linebacker spots.
Although the Warriors have dealt with lots of minor injuries, only a few have direct impact on starting competitions: Brad Kalilimoku's recurring hamstring ailment is the most prominent.
"If we started today, (Jacob) Patek would start. He's had a great camp," coach June Jones said. "Brad can do a lot of stuff, but the injury thing has set him back."
Kalilimoku is resisting the temptation to return too quickly, even though waiting until he's 100 percent healed could cost him the starting spot.
"It's tight, I'll work through it. I'll be back soon," UH's third-leading tackler of 2005 said. "I just do what I can do. If I force it, that'd be stupid because then I might not even be playing at all."
At outside linebacker, Amani Purcell worked out with the first team yesterday. Purcell, a junior transfer from Penn State, just joined practice Friday. C.J. Allen-Jones and Tyson Kafentzis are the projected starters right now, with Brashton Satele trying to catch up after missing several practices with a deep thigh bruise.
C.J. Hawthorne and A.J. Martinez ended spring practice as the top two cornerbacks, and so far they've fended off all challengers -- but Kenny Patton, who has started 22 games at cornerback -- made a strong push when Martinez was out with groin and hip injuries. Jones said yesterday he's feeling better about the depth at UH's weakest position last season.
"C.J. Hawthorne just keeps getting better every day. A.J. now that he's out there, looks like he's turned it up a couple of notches. And Kenny has been competing hard, too. We're getting a little better. The two new kids, the last three or four days, (Myron) Newberry and Gerard (Lewis), have picked it up and I can tell they're starting to feel comfortable."
A third junior college transfer corner, Keenan Jones, is expected to join practice this week.
Wide receivers Chad Mock and Jason Rivers (X, or right) and Ross Dickerson and Ian Sample (Z, or left) are still all potential starters. The only thing certain is all will play, Jones said.
"The X and Z both, anybody, could start right at this point," Jones said. "I think Jason's had a great camp. Chad's had his moments. Ross and Ian have been very consistent, too. Those guys will get a lot of playing time regardless of who starts."
The chart hasn't changed on the offensive line, but it still could at either of the guard spots.
"I would say all of them have done well, but John Estes (at right guard) has had a great camp and Hercules (Satele) is solid at the left guard spot," Jones said. "Laupepa's (Letuli) done very well. He got hurt, but he'll be back out there Monday. Larry's (Sauafea) had a good camp. He rolled an ankle, so a little slower coming on."
The X-factor is senior Marques Kaonohi. He's listed as backup center to Samson Satele, but he's also a contender at both guard positions.
"Marques is still in the mix at guard, too," Jones said. "He's probably been as good as he's ever been for us. He plays both spots, he's doing better with his calls and he's worked his rear end off in the weight room. He's probably our most improved. He and (tackle) Keoni (Steinhoff) are probably the two most improved linemen we have."
Kaonohi said he's keeping himself ready at all three spots.
"I'm trying to not let the depth chart discourage me," Kaonohi said. "We've got two weeks. I don't know, we'll see what happens. I just got to keep working hard and keep doing what I'm doing. I'm pretty confident I can get better."
True to your school: Starting right tackle Dane Uperesa arrived at practice today with a Punahou sticker on his helmet. The former Buffanblu standout said he attached it before his alma mater's 20-18 victory over Kahuku on Friday in a rematch of last year's high school state championship game.
"I had a lot of confidence," Uperesa said. "To some degree it was redemption. (Kahuku) did take states. I was very proud of how (Punahou) fought through it last night in spite of being down."
Uperesa, who is from Hauula, probably would have gone to Kahuku if he went to public school. He would've been teammates with UH's other starting tackle, Tala Esera.
"Yeah, it's funny," Uperesa said. "There never really was a rivalry. I know what he did in high school and how successful they were. When they met up last year it was kind of funny to me, first of all that my school's in a position to win a state championship. You know Kahuku's always there. It was nice to get into that mix of guys who can brag about their high schools. There's some degree of ragging, but it's all in fun. I think Kahuku's gonna have a great season, too."
Uperesa sat out the last two practices with a mild case of tendinitis.
"I'd play if the game were this week. I came out ready to practice. Coach just held me out."
Smith still sidelined: Freshman free safety Spencer Smith (ankle sprain) remained among the walking wounded. He hopes to get back into action tomorrow and resume his run for a spot on the 60-man travel roster for Tuscaloosa.
"It felt good today, but coach (defensive coordinator Jerry) Glanville wanted me to give it one more day so I could have Sunday (today's off day), too. The main part is I'm happy it just wasn't too serious. I heard it pop and that scared me. After a couple minutes it felt fine, but it swelled up. Been icing it, rehabbing it, ready to go Monday.
Hanging in there: Sophomore walk-on running back David Farmer had a good week, breaking off some long gains. The third-stringer knows the numbers are against him, but he persevered enough last year to play in 11 games and start two.
"Of course, we all want to be a starter. My role is to be the best team player I can be. Right now it's the way the cards fall," Farmer said.
Laeli returns: Sophomore defensive lineman Fale Laeli is back in action after about a week off with a concussion.
"They're putting me in a lot now, so I can learn the plays," Laeli said. "They switched me to nose for long yardage."