Hawaii football starts spring practice with a sense of urgency

Jan. 30—During Monday's first of 15 spring practices, the University of Hawaii football team:

>> worked under new defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman;

>> adjusted to a smaller quarterback rotation;

>> and moved toward securing Delaware State as the season-opening opponent.

"It's been a good thing with the guys we brought in," said head coach Timmy Chang, who hired Thurman, Dan Morrison, Anthony Arceneaux and Jeff Reinebold. "They're veterans and really good people. They make it easy for us to be together and be a part of something. It's been good in the film room."

Morrison was named co-offensive coordinator, pass-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Arceneaux is the running backs coach. Reinebold is in charge of the defensive tackles and nose guards. "Those guys have a lot of experience and wisdom," Chang said.

Thurman was the defensive coordinator under Rex Ryan with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, and spent the previous two years on Deion Sanders' staff at Jackson State and Colorado. Following Monday's two-hour practice, Thurman made an exception to the "Jordan Rule." Michael Jordan always showered before meeting with the media.

As for his fresh start with the Warriors, Thurman said of the practice, "some good (play), some not so good. We're young. We're new to what we're trying to do. For the most part, the guys are locked in. They're paying attention. It's just the small details. It's the details for assignment. It's knowing our assignment. It's running to the football. It's getting there with a purpose. For the most part, I would give us a 'C' (for the first practice). Looking to improve every day."

Two years ago, during Chang's first spring training as head coach, there were seven quarterbacks on the roster. Brayden Schager, Jake Farrell, John-Keawe Sagapolutele and Micah Alejado are the only quarterbacks on the spring roster.

"It's a lot more throwing on air, which is crazy," Schager said of drills involving only quarterbacks and receivers. "It's been fun just to know those guys well. We're getting closer."

In December, Schager entered the NCAA transfer portal. But after a few days, he changed his mind, and began the process of withdrawing from the portal to return to UH for his senior season.

"From the moment he got back here, he's been awesome and great with the guys," Chang said. "He's worked his tail off. I'm not going to speak for everybody. He's proven to me he's a leader and wants to lead this team."

Of the first spring practice, Schager said, "it means everything. It's great to be out here with the guys, and just getting together and putting that work in. It's great to see new faces out here — new coaches, new players. And just a blessing to have another year to play football. It's crazy it's been this many years now. It's a blessing every time I get to come out to practice."

As an experiment, the quarterbacks had GoPro cameras attached to the front of their helmets to provide point-of-view videos. "Good training for my eyes," Schager said of the footage that can be useful in reading coverages.

Although contracts have not been exchanged, Delaware State has emerged as the likely Week Zero opponent for the Warriors.

Oregon, which is set to join the Big Ten, withdrew as UH's season-opening opponent on Aug. 24 at the Ching Complex. Plans also fell through for the Warriors to replace Oregon with a road game against Illinois. Illinois was prepared to pay the Warriors an appearance fee of $1.5 million.

If finalized, Delaware State would join Northern Iowa as FCS schools on the UH schedule. Because an FBS team can count only one FCS game toward bowl eligibility, the Warriors would need to win seven to be assured a postseason game.

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