HONOLULU — Timmy Chang’s first fall camp as Hawaii football head coach is over.
Now the week-to-week grind of scout preparation begins. For UH, a largely rebuilt team, the work included a dress rehearsal for the ins and outs of a home game day at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex.
The Rainbow Warriors concluded roughly three weeks of drills and positional battles with a full “mock game” on Tuesday, complete with a runout to the field and a ha‘a. Play began on the field under the watch of officials, then the team went back to its locker room for “halftime” before coming back out for further work.
The emphasis for the players was where to be and when, like they would on an actual game day, such as the Aug. 27 season opener against Vanderbilt.
Chang reacted favorably to his extensively reconstructed team’s response to being put through its paces.
“This (was about) the whole management of a game-day situation, and them not being surprised when the first game (arrives),” Chang said. “Being together, what we’re doing, when we take the field, how we take the field, to get ready and prepared for our first game.”
The team took Wednesday off from practice, then will fully launch into Vanderbilt scout preparation on Thursday. Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference went 2-10 last season (0-8 SEC). It was winless in 2020. Yet, the Commodores are favored by nearly a touchdown over UH, which went 6-7 last season and lost some of its most talented players leading up to and after the resignation of Todd Graham in January.
Although camp is over, positional battles are ongoing, including at quarterback, where the Rainbow Warriors’ had their most notable player defection to the transfer portal after the 2021 season. Five quarterbacks — Brayden Schager, Cammon Cooper, Joey Yellen, Jake Farrell and Amari Edden — saw work during the scrimmage-like portion of practice Tuesday to be the successor to Chevan Cordeiro, who is now at San Jose State.
However, it still appears to be the sophomore Schager’s job to lose.
Schager, Cordeiro’s backup last season who went 2-1 as a starter, feels he is ready to assume that mantle.
"I think I’ve continued to have that all through fall camp, the confidence that I’m going to be the guy," Schager said. "I just gotta keep doing what I’m doing, and continue to be a leader in there to the team, go out and have a great week of practice and get ready to go."
Chang has repeatedly demurred about who his frontrunner is.
“There’s definitely a good battle going on,” Chang said. “But they’ve all been doing a great job. Don’t be surprised if we use more than one guy.”
The former UH signal-caller said the depth chart for Vanderbilt could be shaped by injuries and illness in the coming days.
“I think there’s some things inside there we’re still waiting on,” Chang said. “This will be an ongoing process every week as we go through. We’re trying to get all our guys to the race on Saturday (Aug. 27).
Defensive lineman Jonah Kahahawai-Welch is one of the players making up roughly half of the roster that returned from last season. Once again, he led the team in its ha‘a.
Kahahawai-Welch, a Kamehameha alumnus and senior from Kailua, has drawn inspiration from the energy he gets from teammates during the dance.
“The anticipation is real,” he said. “As we get closer, as things start winding down and we go more to Vanderbilt prep, the nervous feelings, that’s a good thing to have. You want to have those feelings. It’s normal, it’s what human beings do.”
Brian McInnis covers the state's sports scene for Spectrum News Hawaii.