The University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football team showed up to open the 2016 season and the first year of the Nick Rolovich era with a bang on Monday morning at Cooke Field.
The Rainbow Warriors began the first of six practices this week and 23 overall on Oahu before UH commences the journey to the season opener against Cal in Sydney, Australia, departing on Aug. 20. Monday’s action began at 6:30 a.m. on Cooke Field, as 103 student-athletes in helmets and shorts began stretching under an overcast Manoa skyline.
Before the initial whistle blew, the camp squad, consisting of 70 players returning from last season and 33 newcomers received a rallying cry in the form of a speech from former UH coach Dick Tomey. From there, helmets were quick to be buckled and the work began for the Rainbow Warriors in the 2016 seaosn.
As the early-morning clouds lifted, the practice’s energy was quick to follow, in addition to the humidity and temperature, as Rolovich donned a safari hat and combat boots to lead the charge. Maximum effort was a defining term to explain the first day, which saw an array of periods and drills, including a very early start in preparing special teams units.
“Overall I think there’s a mindset of wanting to be great that showed out here,” Rolovich said. “We’ve got a lot of work to still do.”
As the heat continued to rise through individual, team and 7-on-7 periods, the value of the UH off-season conditioning program proved through in the 2 1/2 -hour practice, as the Warriors stayed in the fight through the final whistle – in spite of up-downs and conditioning drills to close the morning.
Asked following practice which group impressed the most on day one, it was an undisputed answer for Rolovich – defensive backs.
‘They’ve got a chip on their shoulder. I don’t know who’s writing what about them, but they’re angry about something. They put in probably the most work in the offseason as far as a group together and they came out and competed well.”
When questioned about the quarterback position, Rolovich made it clear that the competition has begun. Returning starter Ikaika Woolsey took the lion-share of first team reps ahead of Beau Reilley and Aaron Zwahlen. While newcomers Dru Brown, Cole Brownholtz, Kyle Gallup, Hunter Hughes, and Cole McDonald also participated in practice.
“The quarterback is a big deal. Especially not only in the tradition of this school, but how much we put on them as far as being succesful offensively. Some of the new guys are swimming. They were good on the board during the summer when they were here, but when you get out there and there’s some bullets flying, they still got a lot of work to do. We’ll start chopping it down at the end of this week, and then we’ll name a starter, I would hope, after the scrimmage on the 13th,” said Rolovich.
The Rainbow Warriors are back to work at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday at Cooke Practice Field back in helmets for the second day, suiting up in shells on Wednesday.