[ UH FOOTBALL ]
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Quarterback Jason Whieldon handed off to running back Mike Bass at a scrimmage yesterday at UH-Manoa.
take center stage
With several starters hurting,
backups got a chance to shine
at yesterday's scrimmage
It didn't take long. The old "If you were to play a real game today" question popped up quickly after Hawaii's football scrimmage at the Manoa grass field yesterday.
And for good reason.
With three starters and three key defensive secondary backups held out of action, UH fans want to know which wounded Warriors are really ready to go.
The answer is probably all six.
Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga (back strain), defensive end Travis LaBoy (abdomen strain), left tackle Samson Satele (flu, shoulder strain) and defensive backs David Gilmore (sore back), Gary Wright (groin pull) and Kenny Patton (rehabbing from knee surgery) could have played yesterday.
The coaching staff knows what they -- as well as the other veterans -- are capable of doing, so there was no need to risk further injury. But after the fine performances by some of the backups yesterday, you will see veterans get healthy quickly.
"We know what they (the starters) can do," said defensive coordinator George Lumpkin, whose first unit was in for five plays and yielded 29 yards to the first-team offense. "Today was an opportunity to develop depth."
Backup safety Lono Manners and cornerback Omega Hogan made the most of it. Both sophomores have combined improved speed and knowledge of the defensive schemes to make serious bids for playing time.
"No question, Lono's smart. He got faster and he loves the game of football," Lumpkin said. "He reminds me of (all-conference safety) Hyrum (Peters) how he loves the game and he's smart."
Lumpkin said Hogan still has a lot to learn, but he's been a playmaker since fall camp began nearly two weeks ago. Yesterday he nearly intercepted another Tim Chang pass after plucking one Friday in team drills.
"Omega has a lot of speed. He's developing more confidence getting more reps. As he gets an understanding of what he's doing, the speed kicks in more," Lumpkin said.
Senior defensive end Kevin Jackson has taken some of the snaps his good buddy LaBoy would play if healthy. Jackson bulked up to 250 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame from last year's 229, and it's made him an any-down player rather than just a designated pass rusher.
"I'm at a perfect weight for me. After running around two weeks, I still feel pretty strong," Jackson said. "The first four days of camp was rough. I was sore a lot and didn't feel like my old self. After the first few days I got right back in the mix. The game I wanted to work on is protect against the run as well as pass rush, and I figured I'd have to be bigger."
The big question on offense is Satele. Is he out because of the flu, his left shoulder woes, or both? Only the second-year freshman knows for sure, and he said the shoulder is fine and he will be back at practice tomorrow.
"He'll practice Monday. We just held him out," coach June Jones said. "I would anticipate he will start (a week from Saturday against Appalachian State). It's the same shoulder (injury) that probably half our team's been battling through, big guys, (slot receiver) Nate Ilaoa. It happens in football. Some guys play with it, some don't."
If Satele doesn't get back in action quickly for some reason, Jones said he has confidence in true freshmen Jeremy Inferrera and Larry Sauafea.
Novice left tackles are not the best insurance policy for a healthy quarterback. But defenders only got close enough to Chang to earn a Jones scolding once during the 10 snaps the starting QB took yesterday.
Chang threw only short passes, completing five of nine for 28 yards. The highlight was a 5-yard hitch to Jason Rivers that the true freshman turned into a 20-yard, defender-dragging gain up the middle.
"We had a couple of long throws for (Chang), but they happened to blitz, so the ball came out early," Jones said.
Third-string quarterback Jeff Rhode (a third-year sophomore), senior running back John West and second-year freshman slot receiver Ross Dickerson turned in the most impressive offensive plays.
Rhode completed five of seven passes for 138 yards, West rushed three times for 61 yards, and Dickerson caught a 50-yard pass from Rhode.
Overall, Jones was pleased with what turned out to be a relatively error-free scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
"I thought we were assignment correct. You know, it looks like we've got a chance to be OK. I was pleased there were no penalties and offsides and those kind of things," he said.
There were also no turnovers in the 50-play scrimmage, and few missed tackles.