In a position group full of depth and experience, the offensive line figures to be the strength of the University of Hawaii football team in 2020.
The offensive line is also home to the team’s only preseason All-Mountain West first-team selection in left tackle Ilm Manning. Manning, who also earned preseason first-team all-conference honors from Phil Steele and Athlon, heads into his junior season having started 29 consecutive games for the Rainbow Warriors.
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“It just boosts me. It makes me want to work harder,” Manning says of the preseason accolades. “There’s still competition out there and I know there’s a lot of people looking at me so I just gotta keep pushing myself to be the best I can.”
Manning’s first two seasons in Manoa were under former head coach Nick Rolovich and the run-and-shoot system. Under new coach Todd Graham, a faster tempo is expected on offense.
“Definitely a lot more conditioning, the ability to read the defense faster. As soon as the ball is snapped, we have to go,” Manning says.
“There’s a lot of communication, holding each other accountable for our mistakes and just keep on pushing each other to get better each and every day. It’s all about communicating and stuff like that.”
Now an upperclassman, Manning understands he’s taking on more of a leadership role in his third year with the program, especially as he enters the season as an established starter.
“Coming in as a freshman, having to depend on the upperclassmen, JR (Hensley), Kohl (Levao), Taaga (Tuulima), depending on them to help me pull through, stuff like that. Now it’s flipped,” Manning said. “People are looking up, the freshman and sophomores are looking up to me. I just gotta keep on pushing myself harder and harder. There’s still competition in front of me. The guys I play next to, Kohl, Taaga, Solo (Vaipulu), Micah (Vanterpool), (Gene) Pryor, we all compete with each other, compete for that spot so we’re always competing to get better.”
Other than his technique, Manning’s durability and availability has been one of his biggest strengths during his college career. To that end, “taking care of my body is the key,” Manning says. “Going to the training room, getting a lot of treatment on my legs especially. I’m known for cramping a lot. I gotta stay hydrated on the island so just taking care of my body and learning and watching film.
“Right now, I definitely feel comfortable gaining weight. I’ve reached my junior goal weight and keep on getting faster and more explosive and that should help me become a better player, too.
“As long as I don’t slow down and keep getting faster and stronger and more explosive, then I’m fine with gaining weight.”
Back when Manning was voted to the preseason All-MW first-team in July, Graham was highly complementary of him even though at the time, he had yet to coach him in a practice.
Graham has also previously said that he believes in a pro future for Manning. To Manning, it’s a goal he visualizes constantly.
“I always wanted to go pro or I wouldn’t be here at all. I wake up every day thinking about it,” Manning said. “My mom calls me and tells me, ‘You’re doing good, just keep on pushing yourself every day.’ Every day when I wake up, I think about it. Every day I think about it. If I just keep on pushing myself each day and I get better every day, I’ll go somewhere far in this career with football.”