A new era is underway on Lower Campus Road in Manoa. Perhaps it will be a short era, but for the next four games, the University of Hawaii football team is led by interim head coach Chris Naeole.
The Rainbow Warriors completed their second practice under Naeole Wednesday morning at T.C. Ching Field as they work through the transition period in preparation for UNLV on Saturday.
"I'm pretty happy where things are right now," Naeole said. "I think it's just a whirlwind for me right now. I'm trying to go practice to practice, meeting to meeting and take care of business."
While Naeole insisted they weren't going to try to reinvent the wheel in the final month of the season, players acknowledged a difference in the mood at practice.
"A lot more loose, a lot more fun," senior linebacker Julian Gener said. "He's hard-nosed, he's up in your face, but he's lax. He just makes stuff fun, he wants guys to go."
Naeole did make several changes already. Senior linebacker Lance Williams and senior quarterback Max Wittek were stripped of their captaincy, while Gener, Kory Rasmussen, Dejon Allen, Nick Nelson, Jerrol Garcia-Williams, Rigoberto Sanchez and Kennedy Tulimasealii joined Ben Clarke as captains.
"I felt like they bring a little more credibility to the team," Naeole said. "The eight guys I chose all have been playing through the first eight games and playing well. They've graded out the best and that's what I want everybody to strive for."
"It feels awesome to finally be known as a captain," said junior defensive end Kennedy Tulimasealii. "It just feels awesome being in the front row, having everybody look to you. It's a big role and I think I can fulfill it."
The other big change is at the quarterback position. Ikaika Woolsey takes over as the starter for Wittek.
"I don't have the luxury of time to sit around and guess about what I think is right and wrong," Naeole said. "Right now I think Ikaika gives us the best chance, but I'm not sleeping on Max one bit."
Naeole praised Wittek for the way he's handled the demotion. Woolsey will make his second start this season Saturday in Las Vegas.
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