Hawaii head coach June Jones, center, and offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh conferred at practice Monday.

Warriors ready to hit,
need to hit the playbook

Jones has mixed the freshmen
in earlier than usual this season
because of their readiness

In years past, Hawaii football coach June Jones gave his incoming players a little bit of time to themselves at the start of fall camp, a couple of days to get indoctrinated to the ways of Warrior football before mixing them in with the veterans.

And these orientation practices were off-limits to the public and the media.

This year is different. From Day One, which was Monday, the Warriors were one whole team -- freshmen and all -- doing everything together, and for all to see.

"It's by design," Jones said. "They're athletically better in some areas. And I have to force-feed the three freshman quarterbacks. Heads are going to swim as we get everything in over the next couple weeks and we'll see where we are."

It is at the same time an honor and a challenge for this class. Jones is telling them they're ready physically, but not yet mentally.

"New guys are still lining up wrong," Jones said. "But they seem to be a little more plugged in than we usually are at this time. Hopefully we just keep getting a little better every day. We're good in the skill areas, offensively and defensively. It should be good competition throughout camp."

On Monday, the newcomers showed they had worked hard in the offseason. As a group, they put on a show in the 220 conditioning runs.

Jones has repeatedly said many from this class might contribute immediately, and that one of the three QBs -- Tyler Graunke, Taylor Humphrey, and Brandon Satcher -- could emerge as the No. 2 to starter Tim Chang.

During yesterday's practice, those three had varying levels of success in passing drills. Jones said they're all about even, and no one's being asked to turn in his orange shirt.

"It's all pretty even. They all threw the ball pretty well at times. They all have a chance to be players," he said.

Freshman wide receiver Desmond Thomas did stand out yesterday, consistently getting open and making sweet catches, including a couple of acrobatic, body-twisting grabs, the kind that only superior athletes can make.

Thomas was Humphrey's summer workout partner, as both are from the San Francisco Bay Area. While Humphrey is a compact 5-feet-11 and 207 pounds, Thomas is a lean 6-2 and 166. Both are humble but confident.

Thomas seems like a polished product sometimes. But in addition to continuing to absorb the playbook, he needs to get a little stronger to avoid getting jammed at the line.

"Strength is a key for me. I'm not the strongest guy, but I work hard. Hopefully as time goes by I'll develop. That's one thing I can improve on, getting off the ball," he said.

Receivers coach Ron Lee said Thomas isn't close to where Jason Rivers was at this time as a true freshman last year. But then, Rivers had the head start of coming from a run-and-shoot high school program at Saint Louis.

"Desmond, he's learning. He has some real good natural ability. Right now he's in the process of learning. It's all a matter of how fast he learns," Lee said. "He's a super athlete and he's anxious to learn and conscientious. It's only been two days, but I think he's going to be fine. He can run, he can jump, he's got good hands, and he's tough."

The other prodigy at wideout, Andrew Pearman, has had a rough start to camp because of that old nemesis of receivers and defensive backs -- the hamstring. Pearman hurt one while running his 220s. He's trying to practice, but he's also trying not to end his season before it even begins.

On the other side of the ball, there are at least five true freshmen who have a legitimate shot at playing time: tackles Keala Watson, Fale Laeli and Clarence Tuioti-Mariner and outside linebackers Khevin Peoples and C.J. Allen-Jones. Watson and the linebackers ran with the second unit yesterday.

Jones was asked the old, "If there were a game tomorrow ..." question.

"No, they couldn't play right now. They can't because they don't know what they're doing. But athletically, they sure can play. They're physically able. They just need the time to learn what we're doing," he said.

It's Christmas in August for linebackers coach Cal Lee. There's nothing like talented freshmen to motivate veterans.

"I'll tell you what. We're really pleased," Lee said of the freshmen. "They came out in really good shape. A real positive. So far after two days they're keeping up with everybody else. It's going to be very competitive for everyone."

Peoples said he is not gunning for someone's starting job, not yet. But he didn't come all the way from Tampa, Fla., to redshirt, and his goal is "to make the travel squad."

"Me and C.J. are studying and trying to put things together, so if Sept. 4 comes around and Coach decides to put us in there won't be any confusion," he said.

Watson, a 6-foot-2, 299-pounder from Nanakuli, is another member of the confident-but-humble club.

"It's nice to play with guys my size. In high school they were all smaller. Here I feel comfortable hitting guys bigger than me. This is a good challenge for me," he said.

Humphrey said a players only meeting Tuesday allowed everyone -- freshmen included -- to "open up and bond."

Being accepted emotionally and respected physically are important. But the determining factor on how quickly the young players get into action is how thoroughly they absorb what is second nature to the veterans. That takes discipline it seems this class might already possess.

"I think the way we came in in shape tells you about the character of this class. It came in ready to play and means business," Humphrey said.



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