While working to lock in a starting five, Hawaii offensive line coach Chris Naeole will also be looking for versatility within the unit during fall camp.
“I’m trying to find who are the guys who can play multiple positions,” Naeole said, “because when we travel, you’re only allowed to take so many guys.”
The Rainbow Warriors have some options built in after two of their most seasoned linemen changed positions in the spring. Kody Afusia, a senior, slides over a spot from guard to center while Ben Clarke is practicing at left tackle.
“I know (Clarke) can play center, but I think he’s done a tremendous job playing tackle right now,” Naeole said of the junior, who started all 24 games at center the last two years.
Naeole said Afusia and Clarke “are our two best linemen,” and will need their on-field leadership. In Monday’s opening practice of fall camp, they were joined on the first unit by three redshirt freshmen with Dejon Allen at left guard, Elijah Tupai at right guard and John Wa’a at the right tackle.
“They’re young, they’ll get there by the end of camp, but they’re still learning stuff right now,” Clarke said.
Both Clarke and Afusia are versed in the various responsibilities along the line and take an active role in directing traffic.
“If I put you over there and you mess it up, it’s your fault because I see (Afusia and Clarke) on film pointing where to go and who they’ve got and ID-ing people,” Naeole said.
Naeole has 16 linemen in camp and said the entire group stayed in Hawaii over the summer, starting their weekdays with 6 a.m. workouts with strength coach Gary Beemer.
“You hang out together, you work out in the morning together … they came back on their own (after summer school classes) and worked out with each other. I think they’ve built that chemistry any good team is going to need.” Naeole said.