Hawaii offensive lineman Samson Satele ran through a drill at practice yesterday.

Chang’s health on the line

The offensive line is better prepared
this year to protect the star quarterback

Just two days into fall camp, one portion of the Hawaii football team is already way ahead of where it was at this time last year.

Last August, UH offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh began the process of replacing three starters. In searching for the most effective combination among a relatively inexperienced group of linemen, he experimented with five different starting lineups before finally settling on a regular crew for the final four games of the season.

Fast-forward 12 months and Cavanaugh's cupboard is stocked with seasoned performers.

"I don't know if it's totally full," Cavanaugh said, "but it's pretty exciting to see a group that's back a year older, a year wiser and hopefully a year better."

The Warriors return all five members of the starting unit that closed out last season and three more who started games at various points. The Warriors started three freshmen at times last year and the depth and experience they cultivated translates into a head start for Cavanaugh this season.

"Last year we were replacing pretty much the whole lineup except for Uriah (Moenoa)," Cavanaugh said. "Obviously this year's a little different flavor. ... We have a little more depth than we've had."

UH offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh is in charge of the unit that protects quarterback Tim Chang.

Moenoa is the most experienced member of the unit -- starting 39 of UH's 40 games over the past three seasons -- and shed 40 pounds in preparation for this senior year. Junior center Derek Faavi was the only lineman to start all 14 games at the same position last year.

Sophomore Samson Satele lined up at left tackle for the season opener last year, but moved to guard for the next 13 games. Sophomore Tala Esera began the year on the right side before settling in at left tackle, and junior Brandon Eaton returns after starting nine games at right tackle.

The Warriors also have several experienced backups. Jeremy Inferrera started five games at left tackle and three at right tackle, and Dane Uperesa and Phil Kauffman had one start each.

Cavanaugh was also impressed with the offseason progress of sophomore Marques Kaonohi and redshirt freshmen Hercules Satele, Larry Sauafea and Michael Lafaele.

"Last year we were becoming a unit," Samson Satele said. "This year we come in as one big unit.

"Last year everybody was confused on who can play where. ... This year we come in with a better state of mind, stronger, faster, more in shape. We have more confidence."

Like Moenoa, Satele reported for camp leaner, having dropped 20 pounds while adding strength in an offseason conditioning program. He checked in at 6-foot-2, 278 pounds and is on the watch list for the Outland Trophy after earning second-team All-Western Athletic Conference and first-team Freshman All-America honors last year.

With greater depth come heightened expectations for the line, which will be called upon to protect quarterback Tim Chang as he tries to surpass the NCAA passing-yardage record.

"It's not so much expectations, but it's like we're up against a challenge," Faavi said. "We have to be ready to face that challenge, support Timmy and get him his Heisman (Trophy).

"It's a team thing. We know if we do our thing, everything will fall into place."

While Faavi has quietly established himself as a steady performer in the middle of the line, Cavanaugh is looking for even bigger things from him, pointing to his performance against Alabama last year as an indication of his potential.

"He sat with leverage, he played with great tenacity and with great technique. He needs to set the bar to that level and play that way every game," Cavanaugh said. "He's a smart guy, he's a good technician and he just needs to get consistent and play to a high level every time and he's capable of that."

With the experience that comes with starting 17 consecutive games and the confidence fostered in the win over the Crimson Tide, Faavi is also hoping to elevate his game this season.

"That's just encouragement," Faavi said. "If he wants to see that, I'll play like it's Alabama every game."



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