Hawai’i looking mighty offensive for 2007 | NevadaAppeal.com
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Hawai’i looking mighty offensive for 2007

Hawai’i looking mighty offensive for 2007

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

Hawai’i coach June Jones is excited about the coming football season, and it’s easy to see why.

The Warriors, fresh off an 11-3 season and a win over Arizona State in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl, return All-American quarterback Colt Brennan, who broke 18 NCAA records last season, and nearly his entire receiving corp.

It’s a big reason why the Warriors are ranked in the Top 25 in the Associated Press poll and are one of the favorites to win the Western Athletic Conference.

While Boise State went undefeated and got to a Bowl Championship Series game last year, the same may not be possible for the Warriors. Scheduling problems forced Hawai’i to schedule two Division I-AA games, so the strength of schedule probably won’t be there in the eyes of the voters.

“There is always a chance to go undefeated,” Jones said. “You always strive for that until you lose your first one. We just need to be focused and take things one game at a time. We have receivers that know what they’re doing, and obviously Colt coming back off a record year is big.”

Brennan threw for an NCAA record 58 touchdowns and 5,549 yards.

“He (Brennan) is a great kid and a very talented player,” Jones said. “He’s a real winner. It’s interesting, because he wasn’t recruited out of high school. Prep school wasn’t recruited. He walked on at Colorado. We’re glad he decided to come back.”

Brennan did throw his name out there for the NFL Draft, but opted to return to Hawai’i for his final season.

“Colt is at the point where he can teach the system,” said Dan Morrison, the quarterbacks coach. “He sees things he didn’t see before, and he has a greater understanding of the system.”

Backing him up is Tyler Graunke, who passed for 501 yards and four scores in mop-up duty last season.

Three starters at wide receiver – Davone Bess, Jason Rivers and Ryan Grice-Mullen – are back.

“The receiving corps is the best I’ve ever had here,” Jones said. “Jason Rivers has been a four-year starter. Davone had a good year last year. Grice-Mullen is a big-play guy.”

Bess caught 96 passes for 1,220 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdowns. Rivers was next with 72 grabs and 1,178 yards and 10 scores. Grice-Mullen finished with 46 catches for 770 yards and 11 scores.

The team did lose Ross Dickerson (54 catches, 726 yards, seven TDs) and Ian Sample (54 receptions for 690 yards and 10 TDs). C.J. Hawthorne, a converted defensive back, is expected to be the fourth starter. Michael Washington (16 catches for 136 yards) and Aaron Bain (seven receptions for 69 yards and two scores) are the top reserves.

Nate Ilaoa was a huge loss on offense. The stocky 270-pounder rushed for 990 yards and had 837 receiving yards. He may have benefited more from the system than anybody else, as opponents were forced to play pass first, and left themselves vulnerable to the run.

David Farmer, who carried seven times for 30 yards, and freshman Kealoha Pilares, who was the 2006 Hawai’i Player of the Year, have to replace Ilaoa.

“He was a talented player,” Jones said. “He did some pretty amazing things last year. He could run away from you and he could run over you. Polaris for a freshman is something else. The guy is going to make a name for himself.”

The offensive line lost three starters – Samson Satele, Tala Esera and Dane Uperesa, all of whom are in the NFL.

John Estes and Hercules Satele, both of whom were starting guards a year ago, are back. Keith Ah-Soon and Keoni Steinhoff are slated to start at the tackles. Both saw limited action last season.

The big question mark is at center. Aaron Kia was slated to start there, but Estes could be moved over.

Dennis McKnight, the Warriors’ line coach, said he is still tinkering. If Estes does move over Larry Sauafea would start at guard.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Warriors lost defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, who resigned to take the head job at Portland State. Jones brought back former UH assistant Greg McMackin.

“Greg coming back with our basic defense still intact personnel-wise and the things that he can do should make for an exciting brand of football,” Jones said.

Jones said that the front seven will be the strength of the team, as the Warriors have changed from a 3-4 to a 4-3.

Mike Lafaele and Keala Watson will be the starting tackles. Lafaele had 32 tackles, including five behind the line last season. He’s expected to be more of a playmaker in the 4-3 scheme. Watson battled injuries last season and finished with seven tackles.

Returning starter Karl Noa, David Veikune and Amani Purcell will battle for time at defensive end.

Noa recorded 15 stops in 2006. Veikune recorded 11 tackles in 14 games. Purcell, a transfer from Penn State, registered 11 tackles in nine games. Siave Seti and Fale Laeti will be the back-ups at tackle.

The linebacking corps of Adam Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and Blaze Soares is considered by the coaching staff to be the fastest in recent history.

Leonard, who will start on the outside, led the Warriors with 114 tackles. He also had four fumble recoveries and nine pass break-ups. if there is a loose ball around, you can count on Leonard being there.

Elimimian, the starter in the middle, had 89 tackles last year, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Soares, who saw substantial time as a true freshman last year, registered 14 tackles, two sacks and four quarterback hurries.

“Solomon is a very good player,” Jones said. “Adam is a good player. They all run around well. I’m real excited by the group.”

Three starters – cornerbacks Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry, and safety Jacob Patek – return in the secondary.

Patek, who played along Leonard Peters last season, tallied 55 tackles, one interception and forced a fumble.

“Jacob Patek is one of the best players we’ve had here,” said secondary coach Rich Miano, a former NFL player. “He’s quick, he’s fast.”

Newberry contributed 32 tackles and two interceptions and Lewis had 33 stops.

Desmond Thomas and Keao Monteith battle for Peters’ old job alongside Patek. Thomas played well on special teams last year and Monteith redshirted last year, though he did play against Nevada.

Dane Porlas, Ryan Keomaka, Guyton Galdeira and Tyson Kafentzis are the secondary reserves.

Dan Kelly converted 13-of-17 field-goal attempts last year. The punting job is up for grabs, but it’s not a huge concern, considering Hawai’i punted only 17 times in 14 games last season.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

THE WARRIOR FILE

Head coach: June Jones

2006 record: 11-3

Offensive starters back: 6

Defensive starters back: 8

Specialists back: 1