JJ weighs in
at WAC Media Preview
By UH Athletics
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
BOISE, Idaho – University of Hawaii football coach June Jones addressed the media at the annual Western Athletic Conference media preview today.
All ten teams were represented along with about 75 media members from around the country. Jones talked about what to expect from the 2002 Warriors.
"I'm very optimistic about the this year's team," Jones said. "We will have more depth than we've ever had since I've been here and a chance to be a good football team."
Although Jones is known for his offensive mindset, he is very excited about the 2002 Warrior defense.
"I think this could be the best defense we've had since I've been here," Jones said. "We have a lot of returning players. Some of the ones to watch are Pisa Tinoisamoa at linebacker. He has really made the commitment this off-season and we expect him to be everything we recruited him to be. We have three defensive ends in Laanui Correa, Travis LaBoy and Kevin Jackson. Chris Brown has played well at inside linebacker for us and we have two guys who can also play there in Ikaika Curnan and newcomer Chad Kalilimoku. We also have four corners who can play and have experience, and three safeties with talent, but are still not proven game players yet."
Jones is also optimistic about the offense, especially the line.
We have more depth on the line than ever before and this could be one of the best groups we've ever had," he said. "The one guy who stands out is Vince Manuwai who will start at guard for us. He could've made my Atlanta Falcons teams when we recruited him as a freshman as an 18-year-old. We hope he gets the attention he deserves this season. I know he's already highly regarded in the NFL."
According to Jones, the incumbent quarterback is Timmy Chang who is coming off a wrist injury suffered in 2001.
"We have four guys who can play, but Timmy has 14 games under his belt and a chance to be a great one," Jones said. "We threw the ball 600 times and got sacked only 10 times when he was a freshman and that's something I've never heard of. Most of that was because of Timmy and his knowledge of what we are doing."
Jones also said Chang still has to past the real test.
"Timmy's arm seems to be back is what we hear from the guys, but with that type of injury and until he falls down and braces his fall we won't really know."
Jones said the receivers will also be exciting to watch despite the loss of Ashley Lelie.
"We lose a great one in Ashley, but Neal Gossett who has played behind Ashley but runs a 4.3-40, is not as tall as Ashley, but can really run and has made plays the few times we've put him in. The two slots are rare. Chad Owens led the nation in kickoff returns last year. Nate Ilaoa, our other slot, runs a 4.3 40 and has a chance to be really good and of course Justin Colbert, who has lined up on the other side for the past three years, we expect him to have his best season."
Two guys will line up at running back including returnee Thero Mitchell and newcomer John West.
"Thero and John will both see time," Jones said. "Thero has proven himself in games and John really caught our eye during the spring."
Jones also mentioned the return of his two kickers.
"Our punter Mat McBriar is special," Jones said. "He's from Australia and I think he will play in the NFL one day. Justin Ayat out place kicker kicked a 55-yarder as a freshman last year and we think he will have a good season."
Although Jones is optimistic about the talent on this year's squad, he also knows about reality.
"Obviously, I'm very excited because this is probably the most talent we've had here in a long time, but I've been coaching long enough to know that talent doesn't necessarily equate to winning games," Jones said. "We need to be able to mesh as a group and play together. We will come across problems during the season and if we can handle and manage those problems then we'll over come everything."
Jones also mentioned the impact of the 2002 schedule.
"We have a tough non-conference schedule this year," Jones said. "We open with Eastern Illinois who went 9-2 and almost beat us a few years ago. We go to Brigham Young and it's tough to beat them at home, especially after what happened last year. Cincinnati is a better team than they've been in the past. Alabama, of course, is a top 10 football team, and San Diego State is better this year. We also have to travel to some of the toughest places in the WAC this year. Hardly anyone goes to Fresno and wins there, and I can't remember the last time we played well at UTEP."
According to Jones, the newly created ConAgra Hawaii Bowl is also a plus for UH and the WAC.
"It's very positive because we know how it feels to go 9-3 and not play in a bowl game," Jones said. "It's great for the conference too because it's going to free up one of the other teams to go to another bowl. Hopefully, we will be lucky enough to win seven games."