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Hawaii football: What can be expected from the offensive line

How will Hawaii's offensive line protect a new quarterback and run block for a new set of running backs.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

At the point of attack, the play of the offensive line can make or break what happens thereafter. Too many times during games last year did the offensive line lose battles and not allow time for the play to develop. This was a big reason for Hawaii's inconsistent offensive play. Many times the defense performed well enough to keep the team in the game only to be let down by a putrid offensive performance.

Hawaii will look to improve their overall play on offense and that will start with the offensive line. An offensive line that gave up sacks on 8.1 percent  of pass plays which ranked 109th in the nation. Three big pieces on last year's line, Sean Shigematsu, Kody Afusia and Dave Lefotu, have graduated. Losing these three will definitely hurt the unit and will leave significant holes that need to be filled. Norm Chow will have a large task sifting through the young linemen left this spring to find suitable replacements.

Last year's starting lineup was a hot mess with Right Tackle Sean Shigematsu and Left Tackle Ben Clarke being the only players to start all 13 games at their respective positions. Kody Afusia started 11 games but missed 2 due to injury. Redshirt Freshman, John Wa'a was slated to start at Right Tackle but was moved to Left Guard for 2 games and was later relegated to backup duty for the remainder of the season.

Dave Lefotu started at both Guard positions but relinquished his job to Redshirt Freshman Dejon Allen after 4 games. Sophomore Brenden Urban took over for an injured Afusia at Center and ran with the job for 6 games. Leo Kolomatangi and Elijah Tupai each started at Left Guard 3 times in the final 6 games of the season. The final starting lineup of the season was Clarke-Tupai-Afusia-Allen-Shigematsu.

Other players looking to move up the depth chart include RJ Hollis. Hollis saw time being used exclusively as a backup linemen and saw game action only twice in 2014. Hollis will be a Junior this upcoming year and isn't expected to compete for a starting job unless he has made significant strides during the offseason. Keep in mind, Chow played multiple freshmen in front of him and he may just be out of luck here. Redshirt Freshmen Keali'I Kauahi and Tavita Asotui Eli will also be vying for a spot in the lineup during spring camp. Kauahi was a two time all-league pick at Mission Viejo High School and was an integral part to the team capturing a league title. Eli was rated 17th best prospect in Hawaii coming out of Kealakehe High School and named to an honorable mention All-State Selection his Senior year by the Honolulu-Star Advertiser.

Chow mentioned in his Signing Day press conference he expects incoming freshmen J.R. Hensley and Jordan Agasiva to make an impact on the team right away.  He went as far to say that they had Agasiva rated as the second best player in Hawaii.  Both have a lot of size and physicality that would aid the line well. Out of all the new recruits Agasiva looks like the one most ready to contribute. He moves well around the field and displays nice strength in being able to drive forcefully on his blocks. He has nice size and with some offseason improvements in the strength department, he can really turn some heads when he comes to Hawaii.

Hensley and Moananu were cast from a similar mold. They are both big and powerful linemen but lack the overall athleticism to make a significant impact right away. While they could factor into the equation at the start of the season, they will need more seasoning to become the absolute force the coaching staff thinks they could be. Both should be watched as they should move inside to a Guard position and may put pressure on the question at Left Guard. Camp can do wonders for young players and it is important to keep these two in mind come Fall.

Austin Webb is another who could contribute on the field soon but he lacks the upper body strength that will be needed to compete at the FBS level. JC recruit Matt Norman does not display any exceptional physical tools and does not standout very much. He appears to be heading towards a backup role or redshirt.  Kamuela Borden, listed at 6-4, 240, is undersized and should receive a redshirt as it's hard to see him making an impact on this line in his current state.

Roster for Offensive Line

#

Name

HT

WT (lbs)

Class

Hometown/Previous School

50

Dejon Allen

6'2"

270

R-So.

Compton, Calif. / Dominguez HS

51

John Wa'a

6'4"

310

So.

Hau'ula, O'ahu / Kahuku HS

56

Elijah Tupai

6'4"

265

So.

Taylorsville, Utah / Cottonwood HS

61

Keali'i Kauahi

6'1"

240

R-Fr.

Ladera Ranch, Calif. / Mission Viejo HS

65

Asotui Eli

6'4"

290

R-Fr.

Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i / Kealakehe HS

69

Brenden Urban

6'1"

295

Sr.

Littleton, Colo. / Adams State

71

Ben Clarke

6'3"

285

Sr.

Littleton, Colo. / Chatfield HS

72

Matt Norman

6'5"

250

Jr.

Monrovia, Calif. / Fullerton JC

74

RJ Hollis

6'4"

285

Jr.

Phoenix, Ariz. / Scottsdale CC

-

J.R. Hensley

6'5"

315

Fr.

Edmond, Okla. / Edmond Santa Fe HS

-

Jordan Agasiva

6'4"

315

Fr.

Honolulu, O'ahu / Mililani HS

-

Kamuela Borden

6'4"

240

Fr.

Pearl City, O'ahu / 'Iolani School

-

Austin Webb

6'8"

310

Fr.

Dallas, Texas / Highland Park HS

Inconsistency on the line leaves questions as to whether proper talent was ever present outside of Clarke, Afusia, Shigematsu and Allen. UH will return Clarke, Allen and Urban, so there may be a nice group that forms amongst them. Clarke and Urban being the only seniors on the roster gives some hope that the young talent spot starting throughout the 2014 season can grow together and become one of the better units in the Mountain West Conference. Some of the best offensive lines in football became that way because they had time to get to know each other and their style of play.

Spring Practice began on April 4th and the offensive line should be among the key focuses for the Rainbow Warriors. Resolving the questions on the Offensive Line will be a key step towards turning around the ship for the ‘Bows. Hopefully with more mature players the line can be solidified early. Probable First Team Offensive Line projects to be Clarke-Tupai-Urban-Allen-Wa'a.