Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Warriors finish camp, turn focus to USC

By Stephen Tsai


At the end of yesterday's final practice of training camp, the members of the Hawaii football team formed a circle at midfield and worked on their haka.

Fifteen minutes later, they tightened the circle and let out a collective chant of "Beat SC."

With that, the focus turned entirely to the Sept. 2 opener against Southern California. The Warriors' roster expands tomorrow, the first day of the fall semester, but after more than two weeks of training, the concerns have lessened.

Here is the status check:

Quarterbacks: The Warriors entered training camp with a top tier of Bryant Moniz, Shane Austin, Brent Rausch and David Graves. After three practices, Moniz, a junior who missed the final three weeks of spring training because of a personal issue, won the No. 1 job. A week later, Rausch, a senior who did not take a snap in 2009 because of a broken finger, was named No. 2. Yesterday, Austin, a junior who started one game in 2009, was picked as the third-string quarterback. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said Graves, a second-year freshman, still will practice with the top group. As the best scrambler, Graves "gives us a different aspect at quarterback," Rolovich said.

Running backs: Since the end of the 2009 season, Alex Green claimed dibs on the starting job. He missed the past couple of practices because of a minor injury, but should resume practicing this week. Green is fast enough to attack the perimeters, and tough enough for short-yardage situations. Chizzy Dimude, fully recovered from shoulder and ankle injuries, will receive a lot of touches as a back and receiver. Sterling Jackson, a junior college All-American, has been effective. Jackson is a walk-on.

Receivers: With a breakout camp, Royce Pollard has won the battle at right wideout. "Royce is having the best camp of all of the outside guys," Rolovich said of Pollard, who will double as a kick returner. Left wideout Rodney Bradley has fully recovered from two leg fractures that kept him from the final seven games of 2009. Rolovich said 6-foot-4 Darius Bright, who also competes at left wideout, remains "in the mix." Bright has been a contributor on special teams. Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares are the starting slots.

Offensive line: If the season were to begin today, the starters would be left tackle Austin Hansen, left guard Brett Leonard, center Bronson Tiwanak, right guard Adrian Thomas and right tackle Laupepa Letuli. "Maybe by Monday, it could change," line coach Gordy Shaw said.

That's because Leonard also has been effective at center, a position vacated when Matagisila Lefiti underwent foot surgery in May. Lefiti will miss the first three games. Brysen Ginlack, a fifth-year senior who redshirted in 2009, can play both guard spots. Ginlack filled in at right guard yesterday because Thomas had a minor ailment. Kainoa LaCount can play both tackle positions. "We want to lock down the starting lineup, but continue to give guys reps (with the first unit)," said Shaw, noting there are four guys rotating at the three inside positions, and three guys at the two tackle spots. Second-year freshman Chauncy Winchester-Makainai can enter the rotation when he fully recovers from a nagging injury.

Defensive line: The Warriors' three most-used formations are 4-3 (base), 4-2-5 (45 scheme) and 3-3-5 (Okie). In the base, the starters are left end Liko Satele, left tackle Vaughn Meatoga, right tackle Haku Correa and right end Kamalu Umu. Satele and Umu both earned scholarships during training camp.

In the 45, which involves a nickel back, strongside linebacker Paipai Falemalu moves to rush end, replacing Umu. In the Okie, Meatoga plays nose tackle, and Satele, Umu, Alasi Toilolo and Siaki Cravens compete for the two defensive end positions.

Linebackers: In the base and Okie, Falemalu is on the strong side, George Daily-Lyles in the middle, and Corey Paredes is the buck linebacker on the weak side. In the 45, Falemalu moves up, and a quicker linebacker replaces Daily-Lyles. That playmaker is supposed to be Aaron Brown, a converted safety who did not practice in training camp because of a sprained ankle. Brown has been listed as day-to-day for more than a week. Po'okela Ahmad has been used in Brown's role.

Secondary: Lametrius Davis, who resumed practicing this past week after being cleared from knee surgery, is the Warriors' best cover defender. He plays on the left side, and cornerback Jeramy Bryant is on the right. Strong safety Spencer Smith, free safety Mana Silva and nickelback Richard Torres are starters.

Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said four newcomers — cornerbacks Dee Maggitt and John Hardy-Tuliau, and safeties Darryl McBride and Bubba Poueu-Luna — have been impressive and will remain in the mix. "The group that came is really strong," Aranda said. "The talent is there. We're set for the next couple of years."

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