It was the late philosopher Laozi—or, possibly, a college football coach embarking on a Western Athletic Conference road trip—who noted, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Well, consider the fall practices that have opened at the University of Hawaii the first stride in a journey of, oh, about 35,000 miles.
The Warriors’ longest regular season—both in terms of miles to be traveled and accumulated days before an open date—has begun in Manoa.
The overall opposition isn’t exactly Murderer’s Row, but the travel demands that surround it might be. By the time the Warriors come home after Thanksgiving, they will have covered more air miles than any team in the NFL. And, in fact, double that of many. Significant achievements, if not material for a Travel Channel special, considering a couple of NFL teams, San Francisco (33,264) and Denver (23,184), are going to London.
The question of where Hawaii is going—to the postseason or home for the holidays—is what makes this camp more important than most for the Warriors, who must build depth and do it pronto.
Depth is hardly a sexy topic. It will not fill the airwaves of call-in shows or generate a free-for-all on the message boards. Cheerleaders do not chant for depth. But for the Warriors this year, it is Job One.
The usual questions hanging over fall camp—the choice of a starting quarterback, running back, etc.—are all there to be sure. All will have impact. But for the long haul—and the near equivalent of a trip and a half around the world qualifies as a long haul—finding and developing players to carry UH through the 13-game, regular-season distance is everything.
You need flash back no further than last season to grasp the importance. The difference between the Warriors’ 6-7 record and one that would have gotten them into the postseason for a fourth consecutive year was measured in trainer’s tape and bandages as much as anything.
By the count of college football observer and magazine publisher Phil Steele, who quantifies such things, UH ranked 12th among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams for "starts lost to injuries" with 33.
For sure that sounds substantial.
Additionally, there will be no open date on the schedule for R&R until after the 10th week. That’s an endurance run of 66 days into the season, the longest in UH’s 32 seasons in the Western Athletic Conference.
The importance of starting quickly is underlined by two of UH’s first three games being on the road (Army and Colorado). Three games into the season, including a Las Vegas stopover, the Warriors figure to have covered more than 11,000 miles—or nearly the distance from Honolulu to Moscow (the one in Russia, not Idaho).
And, yet, with four more road games remaining (Fresno State, Utah State, Boise State and New Mexico State), they still must travel the equivalent of once around the globe.
For the Warriors, the road to success is going to be built on their ability to keep putting quality on the field. A job that has already started.