Remember the Tom Coughlin thing—if you’re not 5 minutes early, you’re late? Kind of the opposite of Hawaiian Time, when tardy isn’t just fashionable but often expected.
Well, yesterday the University of Hawaii football team eschewed the laid-back definition of promptness in paradise, and multiplied the crusty old NFL coach’s philosophy by six. The first practice of fall camp was scheduled for 2 p.m., but the Warriors arrived en masse at 1:30.
The early start was a good idea, because the Warriors need all the time they can muster to prepare for the season that starts Sept. 2 against USC.
Synergy was the big word during yesterday’s long workout. "Camp is about chemistry, guys getting to know each other," said Greg McMackin, the head coach.
It’s already there in some of the units. The defensive backs and receivers are deep and experienced. Safety Spencer Smith’s been around so long he was recruited by Jerry Glanville. Slotback Greg Salas remembers when his new receivers coach, Mouse Davis, was a spry lad of 74 and coaching the UH running backs in 2006. Smith, Salas and a few others were around, even got some playing time during the 23-4 glory years.
There are questions, though—big ones. They aren’t about collective talent as much as about bringing it all together.
First there is quarterback. Junior Bryant Moniz was back for his first official practice since taking leave during spring drills because of an off-field situation that ended up with him apologizing to the team.
"Yeah, that’s in the past," Moniz said, adding that his goal is to "learn from it and move on."
It ultimately might not be as simple as June Jones’ "one snap and clear," but that remains to be seen.
FOR THEIR FIRST practice, the Warriors seemed efficient and businesslike, and McMackin said he liked what he saw on the initial day of what he expects to be a one-week evaluation period. At the end of it, a No. 1 quarterback will be named. Many will be surprised if it’s not Moniz, the starter most of last season after Greg Alexander’s injury.
We’ll get a better idea once the offense and defense begin to tangle in earnest in the coming days.
The offensive line still needs to be narrowed down to five starters, although McMackin said he thinks there are enough capable players to rotate several during games. This is similar to his plan going into the 2008 season.
The line got a huge boost when the NCAA allowed the return of Laupepa Letuli, a sixth-year senior.
"Super senior," he suggested, when I struggled with a title for someone of his unique veteran status. He promises less porous pass protection than in the past two years, but Letuli knows he and his linemates must bond quickly.
"Understanding each other, developing camaraderie, knowing each other. We don’t have that right now," he said. "We’ve got a couple of guys who started, but at different times last year."
It comes down to, in a word, chemistry.
And it can be developed in the next month, Moniz said.
"We definitely have enough time. That’s what this camp is for, to build up our chemistry, our rhythm. So we can get to the point where we’re all on the same page."
They got off to a collective early start yesterday. Maybe it’s just symbolic, but it’s a good omen for a team with some important questions to answer in the next few weeks.