UH begins long-awaited
spring practices today
The Warriors start searching
for replacements for 10 starters
and key backups today
Hawaii football coach June Jones and his assistants were scheduled to begin working with 104 players this morning, looking for replacements for 10 starters and key backups as spring practice started at the UH grass practice field.
One staff member, defensive line coach Vantz Singletary, couldn't wait to get on the field.
"I'm out here watching them paint the field," Singletary said on his cell phone yesterday afternoon. "And I want to make sure all our equipment is ready to go. I want to make sure there are no glitches in our progress tomorrow.
"I'm envisioning what we're going to do tomorrow."
You can't blame Singletary for wanting to get a head start. His job this spring might be the most challenging, since he must replace all four defensive line starters -- including all-Western Athletic Conference performers Isaac Sopoaga (tackle) and Travis LaBoy (end).
One of the top candidates to step in is Mel Purcell at end. Purcell started three games last year, and was WAC defensive player of the week when he made 12 tackles against Texas-El Paso.
Purcell, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, represents a different type of defensive lineman than most of the recent Warriors, Singletary said.
"This group is very athletic. Tall, rangy, long and nimble," Singletary said. "The last two or three years, the guys were more physical, girthy types. Bull rushers with the exception of Travis. This group is like Travis. Tall, finesse guys who can run."
But most of them are inexperienced.
They include ends Karl Noa (6-4, 209), Tony Akpan (6-7, 254) and Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-6, 215), and tackles Abu Ma'afala (6-3, 261) and Lui Fuga (6-1, 299). Fuga, who is awaiting word on whether he gets a sixth season of NCAA eligibility, has the most experience, and Singletary said he considers him another coach.
"I'm concerned in the spring with getting them lined up, their communication with each other, and their playing against the run, getting off the block," Singletary said. "I look at Tony, and he's going to have to learn to take on tight ends and tackles, he's going to get all kinds of blocking schemes thrown at him, and he has to know in the heat of battle what to do and how to do it."
In other UH football news:
>> Sophomore wide receiver Daniel Inferrera will not work out with the team this spring due to chronic hip and back injuries. It is not known if he will be return to the Warriors, receivers coach Ron Lee said.
"He would have one or two good practices last year, and then he'd be out, over and over again. If he can't run, he can't play," Lee said. "He's under the doctor's care."
Inferrera played in seven games last year, catching seven passes for 54 yards.
>> The status of Vili Fehoko, UH's unofficial "Warrior" mascot for football and men's volleyball who also appeared in Sheraton Hawaii Bowl ads, remains in limbo.
"I haven't been told anything," said Fehoko, when asked yesterday about his future with UH and the Hawaii Bowl.
Fehoko was criticized last year when some fans objected to aspects of his routine, including physical interaction with other mascots and cheerleaders. UH and Hawaii Bowl officials said they have yet to decide what role Fehoko will have with their programs in the coming year.
Fehoko, who spoke at the Honolulu Quarterback Club yesterday, said he has followed guidelines given to him by UH midway through last season that include staying away from opposing schools' personnel during his act.