Naeole has nice mix of experience and youth

OL Elijah Tupai is one of the contenders for a starting job. (Bruce Asato /
OL Elijah Tupai is one of the contenders for a starting job.
(Bruce Asato /

When Hawaii takes the field for its season opener against Washington on August 30, as many as three of the five starters on the offensive line could be freshmen.

Returning starters Kody Afusia and Ben Clarke have switched positions, but are still fully entrenched among the first-team unit as fall camp began its second week on Monday. The guys around them, however, could all be freshmen as Dejon Allen, despite being limited with a minor ankle injury, seems to be the projected starter at left guard. John Wa’a, who practiced at both guard and tackle Monday, looks like the starter at right tackle with Elijah Tupai, who moved over to left guard to fill in for Allen on Monday, looking good at right guard.

Three freshmen starting on the offensive line? A concern to be sure. But OL coach Chris Naeole was quick to praise the group after Monday’s practice, calling out Allen and Tupai as maybe the two best athletes of the entire group.

“Dejon and Elijah, if you look on paper and at the testing, up front might be the two most athletic linemen we have,” Naeole said. “If you go by the intangibles of explosion, vertical, bench and all of that stuff (strength and conditioning) coach (Gary) Beemer measures them at, they’re the most explosive.”

Naeole added that it doesn’t always translate to on-the-field success, but with only one senior currently taking the majority of first-team reps, the foundation is set to finally fix an area of concern that has plagued UH in recent years.

“We’ve got four young guys who all have the potential to be starters,” Naeole said. “(Sean) Shigematsu and (Dave) Lefotu have got to get in shape and we got our two leaders, Ben Clarke and Kody Afusia, so it’s a great mix of guys.”


  1. Warrior Dave August 11, 2014 10:33 pm

    Hope these gentlemen can reverse the downward trend of past oline play. Good luck Warriors!!!

  2. Former UH Athlete August 11, 2014 10:35 pm

    Sounds like the OL is coming together…. The three freshmen are redshirt freshmen, so they have the playbook down. Loving the future prospects of potentially having three 4 year starters down the road.

    Just hope there aren’t too many freshmen mistakes. They are bound to happen, but having UW and OSU up first will help this group work out the kinks vs good talent.

    If this group can keep the QB on his feet, then UH should be winning games this year even if the D isn’t all there yet.

  3. Maddog50 August 12, 2014 3:39 am

    Lefotu, and Shig are two of my favorites…..they will play barring injury, I just hope they get done what they need to get done to get back in the limelight…..I do like the 3….”freshmen” Allen by standards is a rffreshman…..but he was also a year late in arriving so he is like 20 years old…..I want to see Leo K come out and do something….Go Warriors

  4. pollypicador August 12, 2014 5:04 am

    In the old days I would watch Cav, now the o-line coach at OSU, have his players entrenched in drills so far removed from the rest of the team (almost like one field away), continiously practicing individual drills and techniques. No disruptions, no music, no having to play choo-choo and having his players racing from stations to station every five minutes (like how the current head coach does (or did?))..In otherwords Cav had his players rooted in instruction, where his sessions with the players weren’t abbreviated or hurried. Cav was the recepient of how Jones ran his practices, longer sessions with position coaches, which in turn allowed the position coaches players to grow, develop and learn.

    In contrast Naeole is handicapped because of the format of how Chow elects to practice. Last season Tsai described on his blog of how practices were broken down into five minute segments (i.e, an hour and fourty minute practice would be broken down into 20 minute segments). So I had to see. Sure enough the players were, like playing choo-choo, moving from station every five minutes the horn would sound.. There was a lot of standing around,blarring music, disruption, and not deep instruction sessions within the position coaches because everything was so hurried,abbreviated .For example one minute there would be 7 on 7’s, then 11 on 11’s, then kicking game, punting, back to indivdual drills, back to 7 on 7’s etc. I’m thinking “huh.” The way Chow ran his practices, to me, it seems like the players were developing marching, disciplinary and attention skills.

    Hopefully things have changed this season, as I haven’t been to a practice.

    But I think if Naeole had his troops for a greater ammount of time (no abbreviations, no disruptions, no having to play choo-choo, no blaring music) he can accomplish more deeper instruction with his players. That’s what it should boil down to, giving his players every opportunity to succeed, learn, develop. Not have the special teams coach hog practice time (he does, and this detracts from Naeole having instruction time with his players or too many other team drills taking away valuable time that he needs with his players.)

    Vent? Yes. Compare the past? Yes. Shame? Yes. I just want to see these linemen have every opportunity to succeed. I can see that DA, ET and JW (runs real exceptionally well, great stamina, endurance) can be very special types of players if the culture is right, or better.

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