Hawaii quarterbacks Tim Chang and Jack Rolovich, right, went through drills at yesterday's practice.

Warriors get early
jump on practice

Hawaii opens spring
ball with morning sessions

The concepts of "Hawaiian Time" (five minutes late is OK) and "Lombardi Time" (five minutes early is late) are diametrically opposed. So for the University of Hawaii football team -- a group tugged in both directions -- 7 a.m. generally means 7 a.m.

But the eager Warriors were early in unprecedented numbers for yesterday's first of 15 spring practice sessions.

"Everybody was out here around 6:30 for the first time," senior cornerback Abraham Elimimian said with a laugh. "It was pretty fun, nice weather. It feels good to be out here in the spring."

Anyone who wasn't quite awake yet got caffeine for the ears right away from guest coach Frank Gansz. As the first order of business, the former fighter pilot and NFL special teams and head coach bellowed out instructions to all 100 players for a one-on-one striking technique drill.

"Cool," senior linebacker Chad Kapanui said. "We learned something."

The coaches hope to learn a lot about this group in the next four weeks. First, who has worked and who is willing to work -- and learn. And later, who is ready to start, or at least contribute on the playing field.

"It's nice to be back out here on the field," coach June Jones said after the two-hour workout. "I really like being around all the guys again. The camaraderie and just having them around again is nice because I don't usually see them during the offseason."

It was obvious, though, that many of the players had spent a lot of time around Jones' good buddy, Mel deLaura, who coordinates strength and conditioning for the Warriors.

Not everyone's body changed as noticeably as defensive tackle Matt Faga's (down from 380 pounds to a svelte 320). But many added a few pounds of muscle or shed a few of fat.

Elimimian, one of only two returning fulltime defensive starters, is a good example of the latter. He bulked up to 191 last year and became a sticking machine. He's down to 187 right now with an eye toward covering the opponents' best receivers in the fall, as well as being timed in the 40 by NFL scouts next month.

Sophomore wide receiver Jason Rivers said he is up to 193 from 187 last year, and it appears it's all in his biceps. It was also clear that he didn't lose any speed.

"I think I actually got a little faster," said Rivers, who started working out a week after he caught seven passes for 143 yards and three TDs in the Warriors' 54-48 victory over Houston in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl last Christmas.

When asked who impressed him yesterday, Jones was quick to name Rivers.

"It's amazing what a difference a year really made for him. Just watching him today I could see his confidence," Jones said. "He's going to be a big-time player. You can tell he's worked hard in the offseason to get there."

Jones said he wouldn't have a read on the four quarterbacks vying to be starter Tim Chang's first backup -- juniors Kainoa Akina and Jeff Rhode, sophomore Ryan Stickler and freshman Jack Rolovich -- until viewing tape of how they did yesterday.

"It's fun to get out here again. We've been doing seven on seven on our own, but it's a lot different when the coaches are out here," Rolovich said. "The window for the second spot is now, for all of us. But it's all friendly competitiveness. We're out here to try our best and what happens, happens."

In team-related news:

>> UH will conclude spring camp with an offense-against-defense scrimmage at Aloha Stadium on May 1.

In addition to the scrimmage, there will be family activities, tentatively beginning at 5 p.m.

>> Gansz said it is unlikely he would accept the vacant special teams assistant position if offered.

"I have so many things that I have to do, I don't know if I can handle it," said Gansz, who is retired but has a heavy motivational speaking schedule. "I am very excited about working with guys I've worked with in the past, like (defensive backs coach) Rich Miano, one of the best players I've ever coached."

Gansz coached Miano when they were with the Atlanta Falcons, where Jones was head coach.

>> Freshman slotback Jason Ferguson's long-awaited practice debut was put off again, this time by a right ankle injury.

Ferguson, who was originally recruited by UH two years ago, didn't enter school until this year and was not on the team last fall.

The 5-foot-5, 154-pound former Fairfax (Los Angeles) star said he got hurt in drills last week. He attended yesterday's workout on crutches.

"I had excellent offseason workouts and I was extremely primed to show what I've got," Ferguson said. "I might be out all spring, but I'm going to work hard to try to get back for that last week."

>> Safety Hyrum Peters, who completed his UH eligibility last fall, attended a tryout camp last month in Arizona for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. The two-time first-team all-Western Athletic Conference performer said he is confident he will be invited to training camp in Edmonton next month.

"There were about 30 players from all over," Peters said. "I'm pretty sure I made it, but we're still waiting for a contract."

Former Warriors safety Rob Grant enjoyed an outstanding rookie season as an Edmonton linebacker last year.

>> Na Koa, the UH football booster club, is holding a fundraising golf tournament April 20 at the Hawaii Prince Golf Tournament.

The tournament is a three-man scramble format with the check-in at 10:30 a.m. and the shotgun start at 11:30.

The entry fee is $175 per player, or $1,000 for a team VIP package. Call Ben Yee at 542-8912 for more information.


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