One of June Jones' missions in fall camp will be finding a backup to quarterback Tim Chang.

Jones has every position
covered heading
into camp

The coach believes beating Alabama
was a turning point

Hawaii football fall camp starts today, with the first practice at 3 p.m. at the grass practice field. UH coach June Jones fielded wide-ranging questions from Star-Bulletin reporter Dave Reardon and columnist Kalani Simpson and KKEA 1420-AM UH football broadcast team Bobby Curran and Robert Kekaula on Thursday. This is the second of two parts, covering players and positions. Yesterday's installment was about the state of the program.

Q: Have you ever had 10 returning starters on offense before?

A: No. Not even in the NFL. We've got more depth than we ever had on offense, no question. We've even got three running backs who have started a game.

Q: Where do you see the most competition for starting positions?

A: I would say backup quarterback. A lot of players at corner. Outside linebacker. D-line.

Q: Is anyone besides Timmy (quarterback Tim Chang) a lock?

A: I'd say our slots are pretty solid, our O-line is pretty solid. At running back any of them can play. (Linebacker) Ikaika Curnan, Abraham (cornerback Elimimian). Those guys are pretty much set.

Q: Is Leonard Peters a lock at safety?

A: I would say, yeah, he's the incumbent returnee. But I would also say we have some guys who are going to compete with him.

Q: Is (Nate)Ilaoa ahead of (Se'e) Poumele (at slotback), or are they kind of even right now?

A: I would say right now Nate weighs about 230 pounds and Se'e is a little ahead of him in terms of conditioning. Nate will run it off in camp.

Q: Would you rather see him around 210?

A: He can carry whatever weight he wants. But he's got to be able to do the things we want him to do. He's pretty dang fast and quick, and he can probably carry some extra weight. But he's never been that heavy. And coming off a knee injury, the body's not used to that.

Q: Will (running back) West Keli'ikipi be ready?

A: With that kind of knee, you never know.

Q: You obviously don't mind having a lot of quarterbacks. Is seven too many?

A: It wouldn't bother me one bit to have 10 of them. I'm looking for two, and you have a better chance of finding two if you have 10. If they don't make it, most the time they can go to safety. They're smart, and they can play another position.

Q: How's the competition at outside linebacker?

A: Chad Kapanui, Lincoln Manutai, I think the two freshmen. They'll be very competitive. And that Paul Lutu-Carroll. After six days at linebacker in the spring he showed he can run and hit. Right now he'd be the No. 1 guy on the weakside.

Q: With so much depth, how many starters will play on special teams?

A: Case by case. We have more speed and depth in the younger guys, and that should mean the starters won't have to play.

Q: How about Chad Owens?

A: I told him two years ago we'd let him return kicks again as a senior, to help him get into the NFL. We're not interested in getting him hurt, because he's so valuable as a receiver. But we're trying to help him, so we're going to let him do it. It's his ticket. He's got tremendous quickness, but not the speed. He'll be a third, fourth or fifth receiver if he makes it, but he's got to make it as a kick returner. He's the best punt returner I've ever seen. I coached for two years, the best in the history of the game, Eric Metcalf. He's better than Metcalf. He's not faster. The best punt returners over the years, they were not burners, they're guys like Chad. They mostly look for guys who are going to catch the ball, and make somebody miss.

Q: What about the kicking situation. Is there someone to push Justin Ayat?

A: Nolan Miranda, and we have a freshman walk-on.

Q: Is Justin over whatever it was last year?

A: I don't think you know until that first kick. But I know he's been working. Usually that's the only thing you can do, work yourself through it. It's like golf.

Q: Would this be the most overall team speed you've had in your five years here?

A: Most definitely, on both sides of the ball. We've got backups with speed who will play into covering kicks.

Q: What's the learning curve for a freshman quarterback coming in? How long would it take for a kid to get enough rudimentary knowledge so he could play if he had to? Half a season? Less?

A: Every kid's different. Like, I already know one of my freshmen, I can't say his name, but he's more diligent, been working, I can tell. Another kid's going to need reps. Like Rolo's brother (Jack Rolovich), he's a reps guy. They'll all get it done, but some will do it faster. It took Nick some time, but once he got enough reps it sunk in.

Q: With all the depth at receiver, running back and offensive line, do you see using lots of different guys?

A: The best players play. That's what we've done all along most the time. But the more you play the best guys, the better they get.

Q: Where'd you find Ian Sample? Or did he find you?

A: He found us. Rich Miano got a call from him. He had gone to some school in New Jersey and saw us on TV, throwing the ball. He said he'd rather play for us than spend all his time blocking the strong safety. Obviously, he's a smart guy.

Q: This seems to be happening a lot.

A: To be quite honest, when I first took the job I thought this would happen faster. There's two things that changed it this year. My contract. No one can say, "Why do you want to go out there? He's not going to be there," anymore. And No. 2, beating Alabama on national TV. Those two things. All the kids from the East Coast. That's what they said. And they like our uniforms.

Q: Really?

A: A guy just transferred here. I asked him why us, and he said, "I've been watching you on TV, and you have the best uniforms." I made him walk with me to marketing, because no one believes me, and repeat it to them. It's the uniforms.

Q: This team seems to have more potential leaders than last year. Is that accurate?

A: I don't think so. I think every year that I've been here, more kids have been here longer and they just know what is expected and they step up. Seniors, when they become seniors, they tend to do that.

Q: Is Timmy (Chang) an NFL quarterback?

A: Yeah, he'll get drafted.

Q: That will be exciting when he gets close to the (career passing-yardage) record.

A: I'm already doing three things for ESPN on Saturday. ESPN Radio,, ESPN this or that. Mel Kiper on radio. It's a big national deal already.



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