The University of Hawai'i Rainbow Warrior football team opened its inaugural practice of the 2015 fall camp on Wednesday afternoon at the Cooke Practice Field.
As the sun beat down on the Rainbow Warriors and the humidity rose—the trade winds limited by the encroachment of tropical storm Guillermo—the Hawai'i players, coaches and staff gathered together to open camp in a distinctive fashion. Before any whistles blew, the Rainbow Warriors were joined by Kahu Kordell Kekoa, who provided the team and player with a traditional Hawaiian blessing.
The Rainbow Warriors displayed the same levels of intensity that were on display throughout spring practices, and the environment was all business at Cooke Field on Wednesday.
"I thought the effort was good," fourth-year head coach Norm Chow told the media. "To get started like this, I think the guys are excited and it was fun."
Though the defense was seen as the leader at times in the spring, the offense-defense struggle was more of a tug-of-war during the team and 7-on-7 portions of Wednesday's practice.
The offense drew high praise for its efforts in film study and incorporating the concepts learned in the spring, and how it has quickly translated to the field. Meanwhile, the benefits were easy to see for the offensive line returning to full strength—with senior captain Ben Clarke returning to action and greater depth for the unit. Several players capitalized and were able to turn some heads with breakout plays.
Newcomer running back Paul Harris broke away for a couple of good runs. Supporting the expectations as a combination tight end/receiver, Davasyia Hagger showed off some of his tools on the first day, while Keelan Ewaliko translated his off-season effort into great plays, including a long ball from Max Wittek.
All four signal callers—Wittek, Ikaika Woolsey, Beau Reilly, and Aaron Zwahlen spread reps around at quarterback, with the largest quantity going to Wittek and Woolsey in the team periods.
While the offense drew notice on individual performances, the defense stood strong as a unit, protecting the edges and swarming to the ball. The unit also drew staff praise for its transformation from the spring to now, demonstrating a now-solid understanding of the concepts introduced earlier in the year.
In addition to working in the heat to prepare the team for the year, many players remain in summer school classes during the early practices, preparing for the grind of the fall semester—with meetings in the morning, class to follow and practices in the early afternoon.
"I know the guys are anxious and I know they're excited, and the challenge is obviously ahead of us—and we're going to meet it," Chow said.
The Rainbow Warriors return to practice at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday—pending any major changes in weather from the storm—returning to Cooke Practice Field for the second of 20 fall camp practices.