University of Hawaii offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich is in search of a view to a thrill.
"We’re looking at the two options," said Rolovich, who is deciding between calling the Warriors’ football plays from the sideline or coaches’ booth.
In the loge-level booth, Rolovich will have a panoramic view of the defensive coverages. But, he cautioned, "you lose that feel you get being on the field. I like being able to talk to players during the game, knowing what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling."
From whatever angle, Rolovich promises the Warriors’ 11-year-old, four-wide offense will offer a different look. Work begins in training camp, which opens this week. The Warriors report Tuesday and Wednesday, with the first practice scheduled for Thursday.
Last season, the Warriors were 24th nationally in total offense, averaging 437.46 yards per game. But they were 84th among 120 Division I-A teams in scoring (22.77 points per game) and dead last in red-zone efficiency, converting on 61 percent of the 57 drives from the opponents’ 20 to the end zone.
During spring training, the Warriors ended each of their 14 practices with red-zone drills. Rolovich said the Warriors worked on cutting down turnovers, and putting more trust in Scott Enos, who converted 12 of 19 field-goal attempts in 2009. Enos said he has strengthened his kicking leg with intensive offseason workouts.
Rolovich’s message to his players was this: "Let’s stay out of the red zone. Let’s come alive when (slotback) Kealoha (Pilares) catches an out. Let’s make these 38-yard gains to the 2, 40-yard touchdown passes. Make that the mind-set."
Rolovich, a quarterback who completed his record-setting, two-year UH career in 2001, joined head coach Greg McMackin’s inaugural staff in January 2008 as quarterbacks coach.
In the second game of the 2009 season, he took over the play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Ron Lee. Rolovich was promoted to offensive coordinator two days before the start of spring training. Lee retired from UH in June, and now serves as a volunteer coach at Kalani High. Mouse Davis, the architect of the modern run-and-shoot offense, was hired as mentor to Rolovich.
Of the offense, Rolovich said, he will use the concepts crafted by Davis, and the mentality instilled by former UH coach June Jones.
"In this (offense), you have to go to the bell," Rolovich said. "You have to have the knockout-blow mentality. If they keep wanting to get back up, you want to knock them down again. It’s very similar to a heavyweight fight: swing until the bell rings or until they go down.
"That’s the mentality of this offense."
Some of the answers to the several questions as training camp opens Thursday
» Candidates: Shane Austin, David Graves, Bryant Moniz, Corey Nielsen, Brent Rausch, Cayman Shutter, Kevin Spain
The syllabus calls for the top tier — Moniz, Rausch, Austin and Graves — to split the snaps for the first week, with a No. 1 quarterback and a top backup being named after that. Moniz, who started eight games in 2009 as an injury replacement, entered spring training No. 1, then ceded the position when he missed the final three weeks of practices while on personal leave. He rejoined for the start of the offseason conditioning program, and impressed teammates with his passing and leadership during unsupervised workouts. Last season, Moniz endured arm fatigue, and was placed on a throw-count limit during practices. He has improved his arm strength, and is capable of making these key throws: 25 yards on the line to the sideline, 40-45 yards from the line of scrimmage on streak routes, 5-10 yards on bubble screens to the flats. Moniz apparently has improved his touch on streak patterns. In 2009, the coaches noted, there were 15 incompletions that were each within 6 inches of being 30-yard-plus plays. "He has a nice control over his arm," offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said of Moniz. Austin, who started in the ’09 victory over San Jose State, has emerged as a take-charge guy. Rausch, meanwhile, is finally healthy. He missed all of last season because of a fractured pinkie on his right (throwing) hand. Graves has drawn praise for his accuracy and scrambling. For some practices, he took snaps as the No. 1 quarterback.
As a reward for their offseason work, Austin invited his offensive linemen to an outing at Camp Timberline in Makakilo the past Friday. The outing — paid by Austin’s father — served as a bonding experience. The camp offers several rope-climbing exercises that require teamwork. Most of all, offensive lineman Austin Hansen said, "It was good to hang out and have fun with the guys." In the past, UH quarterbacks Rolovich and Colt Brennan bought pizzas for their blockers. Austin said he wanted to try something his father had done.
» Kainoa Carlson, Chizzy Dimude, Alex Green, Joey Iosefa, Sterling Jackson, John Lister, Jordan Monico, Hogan Rosehill
Green rushed for 453 yards last season but, more remarkably, 407 came after initial hits. Green’s second-effort running has vaulted him atop the depth chart; what he hopes will keep him there is holding onto the football. Concerned about several lost fumbles last year, Green performed forearm exercises daily, and converted to a running style in which he better secures the ball. NFL scouts have been impressed with Green’s quickness (1.57 seconds in the 10-yard dash), lower-body strength (425-pound squat-lift) and flypaper hands (he caught 100 percent of the passes in which he was the intended receiver). Dimude will serve as the speed back. Three freshmen — Iosefa, a converted linebacker; Rosehill, who once shut down Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o in the state high school basketball title game, and Lister — are basically the backfield blockers.
After suffering a painful groin injury during spring training, Dimude decided he needed a flexible schedule. He enrolled in a yoga class. "I thought it would be easy," he said. "I was wrong. It was hard." The daily stretching appears to have been helpful. Dimude said he feels healthy, and that he also has experienced no discomfort in his surgically repaired right shoulder. That injury made it painful for him to hold blocks last season. "Everything is 100 percent," said Dimude, who will be aligned in the backfield and slot this season. "No excuses."
» Left tackle: Austin Hansen, Kainoa LaCount, Clayton Laurel, Jordan Loeffler
» Left guard: Andrew Faaumu, Frank Loyd, Brett Leonard
» Center: Kody Afusia, Kahai Choy, Matagisila Lefiti, Elmer Lim, London Sapolu, Bronson Tiwanak
» Right guard: Clint Daniel, Brysen Ginlack, David Lefotu, Casey Purdy, Adrian Thomas, Drew Uperesa
» Right tackle: Levi Legay, Laupepa Letuli, Sean Shigematsu, Chauncy Winchester-Makainai
There will be new starters at three positions, and center Lefiti is expected to miss the first three games after undergoing foot surgery. Still, the Warriors remain hopeful. Tiwanak, a fifth-year senior, is considered to be a functional center. Letuli, who missed all but three games because of a knee injury in 2009, was granted a medical exemption that will allow him to play as a sixth-year senior. He has played in 31 UH games, making nine starts. Hansen, who has developed into a vocal leader, started the final nine games of 2009. Leonard was recruited as a tackle, but after emulating Idaho guard Mike Iupati on scout teams last year, it was decided 6-foot-5, 310-pound Leonard had Iupati-like qualities. Iupati is now with the San Francisco 49ers, and Leonard is a guard who moonlights at center. Thomas, who started three games at right tackle last season, shifts to guard. But Ginlack, who redshirted as a fourth-year senior last year, will challenge Thomas. Ginlack started five games in 2008. Laurel has recovered from arm and foot injuries, and will compete at back-side blocker. LaCount, who struggled at right tackle last season, moves to left tackle. Winchester-Makainai, a second-year freshman, can play every line position.
Two springs ago, to the amazement of those who believe in gravity, 320-pound Letuli did a back flip onto the long-jump pad. Letuli’s athletic feats were retold to NFL scouts who attended this year’s Pro Day in Carson, Calif. Letuli, the scouts were told, is perhaps the Warriors’ most athletic offensive lineman in the past decade. Trouble is, there is little video archives. A prospect who was good enough to be promised jersey No. 50 during his recruiting visit, Letuli has endured an injury-filled career. He underwent a blood-spinning procedure to stabilize a knee injury. "No regrets," Letuli said of his UH stay. "I want to have a good year."
» Left wideout: Joe Avery, Rodney Bradley, Darius Bright, Mike Tinoco
» Left slotback: D.J. Armbrust, Ryan Henry, Corey Paclebar, Greg Salas, Allen Sampson
» Right slotback: Dustin Blount, Justin Clapp, Miah Ostrowski, Kealoha Pilares
» Right wideout: Jett Jasper, Skye Kaapuni, Bennett Nicola, Royce Pollard, Billy Ray Stutzmann
After moving from wideout, where his routes were narrowed, Salas had a breakout season as a slotback. He used his speed (4.5 seconds over 40 yards) to create match-up problems against middle-of-the-field defenders. Salas, who caught about half the passes thrown his way in 2008, grabbed 70 percent of the throws when he was the primary receiver last season. What’s more, his yards-after-catch (YAC) average was 10.62. NFL scouts marvel at Salas’ ability to catch only with his hands. That makes him a bigger target (his vertical jump is 33 1/2 inches), and allows him to make catches while at full speed. Bradley had an average YAC of 11.96 when he suffered a season-ending injury. He has declared himself physically fit after surgery and a long rehabilitation for a fractured fibia and tibia in his left leg. Bradley’s return might turn Bright’s status to "it’s complicated." At 6 feet 5, Bright is a vertical threat, in many ways, but he might benefit from a redshirt year to develop into more than a one-route receiver. For sure, Pilares will move back to slotback, where he is more comfortable. As the starting right slotback, he caught 71.4 percent of the passes his way; as Bradley’s replacement at left wideout, his completion rate was 47.8 percent. Pilares has bulked up; he power-cleaned a team-best 353 pounds. Pollard and Stutzmann are in an even battle for the right wideout’s job.
Sure, Salas, sporting a Jersey Shore tan, is on the cover of the UH media guide. And, yes, he has his own website (www.CatchGregSalas.com). But he finally has reached pop-culture status. He has a Wikipedia page. Maybe it’s the bachi factor, but UH marketing folks have been hesitant to promote one player. In the past decade, only Colt Brennan was solely featured on a UH media guide cover. (And a body double was used for that shot.) But with the backing of the coaches, Salas is the focus of a one-player marketing campaign.
» Left end: Josh Manupuna, Mike Maracle, Liko Satele, Earvin Sione, Alasi Toilolo, Beau Yap
» Left tackle: Ho’oIkaika Cavaco-Amoy, David Hafoka, Geordon Hanohano, Zach Masch, Vaughn Meatoga
» Right tackle: Haku Correa, Ikaika Mahoe, Moses Samia, Kaniela Tuipulotu
» Right end: Desmond Dean, Waylon Lolotai, Marcus Malepeai, Elliott Purcell, Kamalu Umu
Embracing his role as hold-the-point defender, Meatoga went on a heavy-iron diet. He squat-lifted 585 pounds last week. Correa secured the right tackle’s job, although Tuipulotu, an Arizona State transfer who has recovered from shoulder surgery, provides an interior pass rush. Satele and Toilolo will share time on the strong side. Purcell moves over to the right side, where he will split reps with Umu, a transfer from Charleston Southern.
Toilolo was poised to break into the rotation a year ago, but those plans were short-circuited when he suffered an injury to his right shoulder. At first, only rehabilitation was prescribed. Finally, it was decided he would undergo surgery. "He’s ready to make a move," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. Ready for a clean start, Toilolo cut his long hair.
» Left corner: Lametrius Davis, John Hardy-Tuliau, Tank Hopkins, Terry Wilson
» Free safety: Kamalani Alo, Kawika Borden, Kenny Estes, Darryl McBride, Bubba Poueu-Luna, Mana Silva
» Strong safety: Gus Cunningham, Jordan Gomes, Spencer Smith, Steven Stepter
» Right corner: Jeramy Bryant, Davidson Chimura, Steven Christian, Dee Maggitt, Kawika Ornellas
» Nickel: Richard Torres
» Dime: Lewis Walker
The coaches crunched the numbers, in which the ratings go from double-positive to double-negative, and Smith came away as the points leader. Smith, who has been clocked at sub-4.5 second in the 40, also can serve as a surrogate linebacker in certain coverages. Bryant played well, but Davis, after a slow start, played even better down the stretch. The return of Christian, who underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum last year, and the development of Ornellas and Walker, allowed Stepter to move to safety. The coaches believe that Hardy-Tuliau has the brightest future among the cornerbacks.
Davis’ body is covered with ink, but it is his coverage skills that have left an indelible mark. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Davis is a physical bump-and-stun defender who frees safeties to roam. NFL scouts project Davis as a late-round pick in the 2011 draft, but "the arrow is definitely going up," associate head coach Rich Miano said. "He’s our best cover guy. Not even close. He’s the NFL prototype in terms of size, weight and speed."
» Kickers: Scott Enos, Tyler Haddon
» Punter: Alex Dunnachie
» Long-snapper: Luke Ingram
Collectively, it was not an easy adjustment for first-year Warriors Enos, Dunnachie and Ingram in 2009. Enos struggled with the distances on his kickoffs, Dunnachie admittedly battled jitters, and Ingram, after overcoming swine flu, suffered an ankle injury just before training camp. A year later, Enos improved his leg strength by exercising with resistance bands. Dunnachie has worked on his flexibility. When he first arrived in UH, he could lift his right foot to knee level. Now his foot can raise above his head. Ingram improved his strength during the offseason.
» Strongside: Aaron Brown, Siaki Cravens, Paipai Falemalu, Art Laurel, Alema Tachibana
» Middle: George Daily-Lyles, Cory Daniel, Dustin Elisara, Jake Heun. Mana Lolotai, T.J. Tuimatuia
» Weakside: Po’okela Ahmad, Joseph Malabuyoc, Corey Paredes, Parker Paredes, Aulola Tonga
The new math: Divide playing time between two playmakers. Falemalu and Brown are listed as the stub linebackers, although they will have different roles. Falemalu will open as a linebacker in the base 4-3 defense. But when the Warriors slide into the 45, in which the nickelback replaces the middle linebacker, Falemalu moves to defensive end as a pass-rusher and Brown becomes an outside linebacker. UH actually has two versions of the 45 — one a traditional pass defense, a second that can swarm the run — but both will utilize Falemalu and Brown. Falemalu, who has a 35-inch vertical jump, is an obstruction on screen passes. Brown, a converted safety, is effective in pass coverage. Daily-Lyles enters training camp as the No. 1 middle, slightly ahead of seniors Lolotai and Heun.
Corey Paredes was living on instant ramen and long-rooted dreams when he was awarded a football scholarship last year. The award did not lessen his appetite for destruction. He led the linebackers in summer workouts, even hobbling through an 11-on-11 drill instead of resting a groin injury. Everybody in football is compared to somebody, and Paredes is likened to former Warrior linebacker Ikaika Curnan. Like Curnan, Paredes might end up as middle linebacker.