Returning McKnight says O-line will be fine
Coach likes starters who will return and the players on deck
The Hawaii offensive line dives into the murky waters of transition after Sunday, when the Warriors (10-3) wrap up 2006 against Arizona State (7-5) and senior starters Tala Esera, Samson Satele and Dane Uperesa close their college football careers in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL
Who: Arizona State vs. Hawaii
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: Sunday, 3 p.m. (Stadium gates open at noon)
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Parking: $5. Lot gates open at 10 a.m. Alternate parking at Leeward Community College (free, $2 shuttle), Kam Drive-In ($5, free shuttle). Occupants of first 500 vehicles at Leeward and Kam Drive-In receive a certificate (one per vehicle) for two 32 oz. soft drinks in the stadium. Parking also at Radford High School ($3, no shuttle). No tailgating at alternate parking sites.
Stadium security: Fanny packs, purses and backpacks and handbags will be permitted subject to check. No illegal contraband, weapons, fireworks, coolers, cans, bottles, air horns, noisemakers, umbrellas, outside food and or beverages are allowed inside the stadium gates.
Tickets: Adults, $15-$45; North end zone general admission child, $10. Call (808) 548-2695.
The changes won't include losing Dennis McKnight, though. The overqualified graduate assistant who coaches the offensive linemen said he will be back -- whether a regular staff job opens up for him or not.
"Absolutely," McKnight said when asked if he plans to return under the current circumstances. "Whatever (head coach June Jones) needs. I've been blessed and fortunate to have a situation at home (in San Diego) that allows me to. Whatever June needs, I'm doin' as long as I can."
McKnight said he doesn't mind working nearly for free and taking graduate classes ("straight A's in both of them," he said).
When McKnight was on the UH staff in 1999 and 2000, he actually lived in the athletic department. He said he has a home away from work this time.
"I got a little place I hang out in," he said. "During the season, Monday, Tuesday nights are long, I might fall asleep on my (office) couch. But I'm living a normal life."
Normal, other than being away from his family in San Diego.
"They were here Thanksgiving, I saw them at the Alabama game, they're coming out for the bowl game," he said. "My kids are older. Been married 27 years. My wife probably likes it when I'm not around bugging her.
Special teams coordinator
Mouse Davis, 74, told the Star-Bulletin he will likely retire after Sunday's game. But McKnight doesn't want him to, especially if he's doing it just to open a staff position for McKnight.
"He's smarter than hell. He knows more that probably everyone on this field, maybe including June, I don't know," McKnight said of Davis. "I just love the guy, his energy level's good. The kids love him, so I would hope he's not thinking of retiring or quitting on my behalf."
Jones declined to comment yesterday on any possible staff changes. But he does appreciate McKnight, who was also the special-teams coach in his first stint at Manoa.
"Dennis is a good football coach, one of the best one's I've had. He's made an impact just like (defensive coordinator) Jerry (Glanville) has. He coaches with a lot of energy and he has a good understanding of what we're doing," Jones said.
McKnight -- with the credibility of his 10-year NFL playing career -- imparted that wisdom on the Warriors' offensive line and special teams this fall.
Guards Hercules Satele and John Estes, who are completing their first seasons as starters, said they're glad he'll be around to aid in their transition to leadership positions.
"From the first game to this game, I'm much better," said Estes, a second-year freshman who moves to center after Sunday. "He shares his NFL experiences with us to help us out and open our minds to what we need to do, especially in practice. He basically lives in his office. So he's always around whenever we need to talk to him about anything."
Satele will be a senior next season. He's had Mike Cavanaugh, Davis, Wes Suan and McKnight as position coaches.
"All four coaches have different positives," Satele said. "Coach Cav, he would engrave things in our minds. Other coaches bring their styles and we mix it in.
"Ever since (McKnight) first walked in he's been real energetic. He keeps everybody up and he's a very good technician. The better we are at technique, the better we block."
The same five players started every game for the UH offensive line, and they paved the way for the most productive offense in the nation. The Warriors are atop the Division I stats in passing yards, total offense and scoring. Hawaii allowed just 24 sacks in 13 games.
McKnight knows the rebuilding project is a big one. But Estes and Satele provide some continuity, and many willing apprentices await opportunities.
"I don't think you could ever replace three guys like Sam and Dane and Tala," McKnight said. "But, like I've said all along, and I don't mean to embarrass them, but I think Hercules and John Estes played as well as any offensive linemen in the country this year. They're coming back.
"I think Keoni Steinhoff is gonna be just a hair off of Dane and Tala, starting out. He's gonna be a great player. Keith Ah-Soon, Aaron Kia, Laupepa Letuli. Larry (Sauafea) might come back (from defense). I think there's gonna be such a battle on the offensive line it's going to be stronger because there's gonna be such competition and depth."