UH's O-line 'getting after it' to become a more cohesive unit

Sep. 7—For the Hawaii football team, this week's efficiency goal is the reassembly of the line.

For the Hawaii football team, this week's efficiency goal is the reassembly of the line.

Inconsistency, an injury and sauna-like humidity in the opener led to the offensive line's uneven performances in the Rainbow Warriors' first two games. While Brayden Schager threw for 351 and 355 yards, the O-line relinquished six sacks and committed three holding penalties against Stanford last week. The running backs are averaging 31 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry.

"We've got to get after it and make sure we improve on (pass protection ), for sure, " said co-offensive coordinator Roman Sapolu, who also coaches the O-line. "We've just got to go to work at it. It's really the biggest thing, going to work and making sure we click on the same page."

The No. 1 line—left tackle Josh Atkins, left guard Sergio Muasau, center Eliki Tanuvasa, right guard Maurice "Mo " Ta 'ala, and right tackle Ka 'ena Decambra—is expected to enter intact for Saturday's game against Albany. Ta 'ala has recovered from an ailment that kept him out of last week's lineup. The Warriors have used nine linemen in each of the first two games.

In the opener, Decambra played right tackle, right guard and left tackle ... all on the same drive.

"He's pretty talented to do all that, " Sapolu said. "It's his ability to learn and be technically sound at different things. It's not easy to do that especially in the heat of the moment."

Decambra has benefited from Sapolu's cross-training program. "The way our offensive line rolls here, you hardly ever get through one season with one lineup, " Sapolu said. "We try to plan for that ahead of time and make sure we preach versatility."

Last season, his second as a Warrior, Decambra ascended the depth chart at tackle and moved into the playing rotation. The thing was, left tackle Ilm Manning and right tackle Austin Hopp were durable and rarely needed a break during their senior season. In this year's spring training, Decambra practiced at left tackle. In training camp, he moved to right tackle. He also took reps at both guard spots.

"I try to be as versatile as possible and bring the most value that I can, " Decambra said. "The more value, the more you can be used on the field. The big thing is just knowing the plays. Everybody has to have the same mind out there. The O-line is working as one collective mind. As long as everyone is on the same page, it doesn't matter what position you play."

Sapolu has constructed a line with intriguing back stories. Tanuvasa, who is referred to as the "General " for his on-field leadership, gave up a scholarship and starting job at Eastern Illinois in December 2021 to move back to Honolulu to help his family after his father became ill.

Atkins transferred from Houston after missing last season while recovering from a torn labrum. "I heard a lot of good things about him before he came here, " Sapolu said. "He's continuously trying to improve. His athleticism and his ability to move his feet are probably his strengths."

Muasau and Ta 'ala are the younger brothers of former UH defensive standouts. Ta 'ala is capable of back squatting 690 pounds. "Mo gives us power and athleticism, " Sapolu said. "He's a people mover."

Solo Vaipulu, one of the Warriors' fiercest blockers, is now a running back and H-back. And Arasi Mose, who reported to camp at 370 pounds, spent the first two weeks of training camp jogging during team drills. "We tried to make sure he was in shape and ready to roll, " Sapolu said. "He's always been one of our smarter guys. He's technically sound."

Mose played 66 of UH's 69 offensive snaps last week.