Warriors look to hit the ground running
A total of 12 players are listed as running backs on the Hawaii spring roster. As camp concludes at Aloha Stadium with tomorrow's 15th practice, they still haven't clearly sorted themselves out for playing time in UH's one-back offense. But some guys have clearly earned 'up' arrows.
Freshman Kealoha Pilares -- known as a shifty and explosive runner as a prep star -- has also made good progress as a blocker. Running backs coach Wes Suan said that improves the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Damien product's chances for meaningful playing time in the fall.
"He's a guy who shows a lot of intelligence," Suan said. "He's turning up all his learning senses. He's receptive and can decipher all the information and put it into the physical. It all makes sense to him."
Jason Laumoli, Khevin Peoples, David Farmer and Alonzo Chopp also got a lot of reps yesterday.
Laumoli, who is listed at 5-11 and 284, is a JC transfer senior who could be the heir apparent to the role Reagan Mauia filled last year as an oversized blocker. Laumoli played in three games as Mauia's understudy in 2007, carrying four times for 34 yards.
Peoples, one of the team's fastest players, is a 5-foot-11, 202-pound junior who moved to running back before last season after starting out as an outside linebacker. He carried four times for 7 yards in two games. His speed should make him a playmaker, but he needs to master the blocking schemes to get more PT.
"I'm working on the blocking coverages based on what the defenses show us. I pretty much have it down 100 percent -- you just have to put it into action on the field," Peoples said. "We throw the ball most of the time in the game, so we have to be able to protect Colt (quarterback Brennan)."
Farmer, a junior, has always managed to find his way into the lineup the past two years despite the lack of blazing speed. It comes down again to the first priority at the position: blocking. He played in 13 games, carrying seven times for 30 yards and a touchdown.
The reason the 6-foot, 231-pound Farmer gets in the mix is simple. He rarely messes up.
"It's knowing what you're doing, and not so much having to demolish a guy, but just knowing what you're doing so you can protect the quarterback," Suan said. "With no doubt, Dave Farmer is doing that the best, technique and assignment-wise."
It's a recurring theme with Farmer that flashier players capture the imagination of fans during training camps -- some who haven't even arrived on campus yet, like Nebraska transfer Leon Wright-Jackson.
"This year I'm really trying to make a push to be the starter. I'm staying out here all summer," said Farmer, who comes from Santa Cruz, Calif. "I've always been on top of my stuff and ready to go in, whatever the coaches need, whatever they ask me. I'm trying to be the man this year. I'm never really satisfied."
Like Farmer, 6-foot, 245-pound Chopp is a walk-on. The former U.S. Marine has played just one game as a running back in three seasons.
"The other guy I've been pleasantly surprised with is Alonzo Chopp," Suan said. "He's been here for a while, but he's starting to really get the idea of technique and assignment. If you continually do what's right, eventually the coaches see he's getting the job done and he's deserving of (repetitions)."
Jayson Rego and Mario Cox are among those that still can't be counted out.
"It's tough to get everybody opportunities. They have to be very observant during practice, and small successes lead to big successes -- a chance to be evaluated and see where they end up in the pecking order," Suan said.
"It's so hard to tell now (who might start and play in the fall). But what usually happens is someone steps up. In Coach's (June Jones) offense, for the running back to get on the field it's to help with the protection."
New haka leaders
Senior reserve linebacker Timo Paepule led the Warriors' haka dance to start practice yesterday. He and another senior backup linebacker, Rustin Saole, lead the haka now that Tala Esera and Leonard Peters have matriculated.
"These are my brothers, so whatever they want. Colt came up to me, said, 'Hey, we gotta do it, you or Rustin. Davone (Bess), too. We're carrying on the tradition," said Paepule, who first performed a version of the Maori war dance with his Saint Louis School team five years ago.
"I don't have Maori," said Paepule, who is of Samoan ancestry. "I respect the New Zealand people. We're using their haka, and we don't mean to disrespect them in any way. It's just something we picked up from the older guys before us and it pumps us up."
Some hitting tomorrow
Jones' said tomorrow's Ohana Festival at Aloha Stadium spring wrap-up practice will include some offense vs. defense full contact, but not among "Colt and the first group," he said.
Brennan and other starters will participate in other team and 7 on 7 plays, Jones said.
Contests and activities at the south concourse from 5 to 7 p.m. will kickoff the festival. It will conclude with a team practice from 7 to 8:30 p.m.