The University of Hawai’i football team is nearing the finish line of spring training camp as the Rainbow Warriors will close out their offseason workouts on Friday with the team’s first spring game in two years.
The offense versus defense scrimmage was cancelled in 2020 in head coach Todd Graham’s first season with the ‘Bows amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Spring Game which is usually held with thousands of fans in attendance will be closed to the public due to safety protocols on the UH Manoa campus.
UH returns more than 20 starters from a team that concluded 2020 with a win over Houston in the New Mexico Bowl. Graham also welcomes back the majority of his coaching staff with two new additions in Marcus Davis and A’Lique Terry while Bo Graham takes over as offensive coordinator after serving as running backs coach a season ago.
“Man, it’s exciting. I guess as a coach, the best thing about last year is that it’s over. Practice matters. We were shut down halfway through sprint ball kind of right when we got into rhythm, we had to shut down and then we got right back to work and now we’re kind of back in rhythm,” said Graham.
A total of eight starters are back on offense, headlined by all-Mountain West honoree Calvin Turner. The senior transfer has proved to be one the program’s most electrifying players in recent memory, carving up opposing defenses as a running back, receiver, wildcat quarterback and kick returner to the tune of a team-high 11 touchdowns in 2020. The Savannah, Ga., native is the nation’s leading returnee in career all-purpose yardage (4,359).
“Practice matters, we’ve been trying to stack as many reps as possible. It’s been great to see some guys who kind of got lost in the shuffle last year because we didn’t really have a lot of time to identify who was who and seeing those guys progress and actually create roles within the offense, that’s what has been most exciting about this spring,” added Graham.
Also returning on offense is sophomore quarterback Chevan Cordeiro who earned all-MW honorable mention last year. The Honolulu native not only tossed for 2,034 yards and 14 touchdowns, but also led the team in rushing yards (483) and rushing touchdowns (7). Other key contributors include receiver Jared Smart, the team’s receptions leader in 2020, and six returning offensive linemen, who have a combined 123 career starts, including three-year starters Ilm Manning (34) and Solo Vaipulu (32).
“The spring game is going to be something special. We’re a band of brothers and so we go out there every practice, these past thirteen practices we’ve been working out, we’ve been working together. Iron sharpens iron, making each other better. We can’t wait, we’re excited,” said senior tackle Gene Pryor.
The defense, meanwhile, remains virtually intact. Seventeen different players started at least one game last season and all 17 are to wreak havoc in Graham’s War Dog defense. Spearheading the defense is one of the premier linebackers in the country in Darius Muasau, who enters his third season as a Rainbow Warrior. The sophomore from ‘Ewa Beach, O’ahu was named to the all-MW first team and was a Phil Steele honorable mention All-American after finishing fifth nationally in tackles per game (11.8).
The Rainbow Warrior Spring Game will send the team off into the offseason ahead of the 2021 season opener which is scheduled for August 26 at UCLA. UH will play their home opener the following week on September 4 against Portland State which will also serve as the team’s debut on campus as UH preparing to host Rainbow Warrior football games and up to 10,000 fans in time for the 2021 home season opener on September 4. UH is working under a tight deadline after being notified in December 2020 that Aloha Stadium, the Rainbow Warriors’ home field since 1975, would not be available to host fans for the next three football seasons as a new stadium us being built in Halawa.
For coverage of Friday’s UH Football Spring Game, be sure to stay with KHON2 on-air and online.