HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rainbow Warriors training camp is back on track, as they prepare for the shortened eight-game Mountain West season under new head coach Todd Graham.
As much as UH’s offense and defense have to perform, the special teams unit is going to be a big key for the 'Bows in 2020, according to new special teams coordinator Dan Phillips.
“We stress with everybody the importance of special teams and we’re going to play our best players of course on special teams.” Coach Phillips told reporters after Thursday’s Practice.
For a lot of players, being on a special teams unit is their ticket to the travel roster, but it’s not just a roster spot — coach Phillips expects his group of players to be momentum shifters.
“It’s very important, as you know, scoring points or changing possession, but we have a really good pool of players here to draw from.” Coach said. “We have a lot of talented young men that play very smart, they play hard, they really bring some good depth and provide some spirit to our special teams.”
Coach has high expectations for special teams and he feels that the players are up for the challenge.
“100 percent ball security, we need to execute and be very disciplined in what we do.” Coach said. “When it comes down to the pressure times, we’re going to be ready for that I hope and we execute, that’s our goal, were going to do it right everyday, so when it gets to game day we just go out and do our things, trust our training, trust our technique and we execute.”
It is a challenge coming in as a first year coordinator, but luckily for coach Phillips, he has two five-star kickers in his meeting room to help lighten the load.
Freshman kicker Matthew Shipley is coming from Texas, where he averaged 55.3 yards per kickoff with 31 kicks going for touch backs.
The other kicker vying for the kicking duties this season is Kamehameha Kapalama graduate
Adam Stack. Stack transferred to UH from Oregon, where he Converted 6-10 field goal attempts with a long of 39 yards last year for the Ducks, while making all 36 of his PATs.
“Those two guys are so talented and they know that, they work hard, they’re humble but they have a confidence or swag about them that kickers have.” Coach said. “It’s really been fun to watch them develop and watch them compete, they continue to do it on a daily basis, they’re pretty cool customers, i wouldn’t want to play poker with them, but they’re really great guys and they really work hard, they’ve done a great job of working together, knowing what’s best for this football team and the best guys going to kick.”
On top of trying to install a new system, coach Phillips also has to navigate the challenges of coaching during a pandemic, one of the casualties being the lack of spring practices.
“Of course this is practice 11, but not being able to see them in action in spring and evaluate them as where they’re at.” Coach said. “We’ve had to push the fast forward button a little bit and really try to evaluate the players to try and put them in the best possible position to win.”
Not only is coach Phillips evaluating the place kicker vacancy, he is also watching a close battle for the starting punter spot — creating healthy competition within the specialist group.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s what we’re all about, there’s no entitlement in this program from top to bottom, we work hard everyday and compete everyday.” Coach said.
At the end of the day, coach Phillips' message to the team is one of perseverance — ensuring the 'Bows continue to get better.
“Everydays a new day, just because you had a bad Friday doesn’t mean you have to have a bad Saturday, so we really work hard to stay focused, looking forward, learning from where we’re at and where were headed, so i’m excited to see these guys continue to battle this out the next two weeks.”
UH has Friday off, before holding a scrimmage on Saturday — exactly two weeks before they take the field against Fresno State in California.