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.”