Guard duty for Ah-Soon, Steinhoff?
The Hawaii offensive line could look a lot different this spring than it did last fall, and not just because starting guards Hercules Satele and Larry Sauafea have completed their eligibility.
Starting tackles Keith Ah-Soon and Keoni Steinhoff, both seniors now, could find themselves competing for positions one spot closer to the middle of the line when practice starts at the end of the month. At 6-foot-1 and 6-3, Ah-Soon and Steinhoff are closer to the prototype for guard than tackle, and the Warriors have some taller players waiting in the wings to try out for the tackles.
Of course, height isn't everything, and Ah-Soon and Steinhoff started every game of the 12-0 regular season on the flanks. But they also played a big part in allowing half-a-season's worth of sacks (eight) in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. That's what a lot of people remember.
"For me, I always try to look at the positive," Ah-Soon said. "We made it that far and we had a great experience. But at the same time, there's a little part in me saying we should've done better. It makes me a little upset still. If I watch ESPN they always talk about it. It always hits me right there (pointing to his heart). So we work hard for this upcoming season and hopefully we're going to (have a good year) again."
If the Warriors are to come anywhere close to last fall's achievements, they'll need a sturdy offensive line to help a new starting quarterback and receivers. And it might mean moving some starters.
"That's really what spring ball is for," first-year UH offensive line coach Brian Smith said. "Our goal is first to find the best five and get them in the slots they fit best. And we really want to develop some depth.
"As far as Keith goes, he's had a good offseason. It's tough to talk about last season because they weren't my guys and I didn't coach them, but as a group they're all real hungry to get out there and show what they can do. (The Sugar Bowl) did leave a little sour taste in their mouths, and I know that they're excited to get out to Florida (for the Aug. 30 season opener) and show everybody what they can do."
Ray Hisatake, Aaron Kia, Laupepa Letuli and incoming JC transfer Kainoa LaCount (he arrives in the summer) are among the many possibilities at the tackle spots.
Coach Greg McMackin said the Warriors want to develop five backups the staff can have enough confidence in to put into any game at any time. He said the numbers make that a realistic goal.
"We have a lot of guys competing. We've got 17 linemen on scholarship," McMackin said. "We need at least 10 good offensive linemen when we go to Florida. The humidity there is going to be a big factor."
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One offensive lineman won't be budged, barring injury or something very unusual. John Estes
earned first-team All-WAC honors at center last year as a sophomore.
"We're going to open it all up, but John is pretty well settled in," McMackin said. "He's one of the best players in the country at his position."
Smith said the protection schemes he teaches are somewhat different than those of his predecessor, Dennis McKnight, but Estes will pick them up quickly.
"He has a good understanding of the offense. Some things will change with the rules. The blocking's a little different than they've had in the past. But he's got a real good feel and understanding for center, and that's something I really don't want to screw with -- center's definitely an important spot."
came to Hawaii as a safety four years ago. He may finish up there after trying his hand at two other positions.
"It's my senior year. I want to knock some people out," Peoples said.
Peoples was moved to outside linebacker as a freshman and then to running back in 2006. He is fast and strong, but has found playing time sparse.
"He wanted to look at safety this year, so we're going to give him a shot there," McMackin said. "He's a good athlete."
led UH in rushing as a freshman last fall. He's not abandoning the running back spot, but will also work at slotback this spring.
"I'll go wherever I can get the ball more," Pilares said.
Senior Daniel Libre will move from running back to slot in the spring.