Along with developing a starting five, Hawaii offensive line coach Chris Naeole is also preparing for the unforeseen.
The Rainbow Warriors were without freshman Elijah Tupai and senior Sean Shigematsu for the first of Saturday’s two practices. Both had worked with the first unit at various points in training camp and Naeole hopes they’ll be back in the rotation soon.
In the meantime, giving linemen work in various combinations figures to build versatility and give Naeole options if an injury necessitates an in-game change.
“You have to have an answer come game time,” Naeole said. “You’d better have answers in your head on how you’re going to adjust on the sideline.”
Center Kody Afusia and left tackle Ben Clarke have been regulars in the first unit. Frank Loyd, who started one game at right guard and six at right tackle last season, practiced with the first group at right tackle on Saturday morning alongside senior guard Dave Lefotu with redshirt freshman John Wa‘a at left guard.
Afusia, Loyd, Lefotu and Shigematsu share a bond as fifth-year seniors approaching their final season after entering the program together in 2010. Naeole is also bringing along a group of redshirt freshmen — including Wa‘a, Tupai and Dejon Allen — who could be immediate contributors.
Kaiwi Chung, a freshman from Kamehameha, has worked at center behind Afusia.
“All these young guys are making a push,” Naeole said. “At the end of the day it’s who’s going to be the most consistent, who knows what’s going on, who can read defenses. The faster these guys can read defenses, read defensive linemen’s stances, the game will slow down for them and the faster you can play.”