‘Iolani football coach Wendell Look is everywhere, sort of.
Wearing his hat as a Raiders athletic director, it’s not unusual to see Look at a baseball game or a golf match or standing near the exit doors at the gym for a basketball game.
But on Monday, Look was right where he’s been for 25 football seasons, with his team on a semi-sweltering day during the school’s on-campus camp. The 2015 Star-Advertiser preseason Top 10 countdown began Tuesday with defending Division II state champion ‘Iolani checking in at No. 10 (subscription required).
On Monday, Look was putting the team through its paces and doing his job as the spokesman for the successful program. When the media calls, it’s kind of time to talk, right? You want your school to get exposure. That’s how most coaches are. It’s not all X’s and O’s. The newspaper will be there one day. The TV station the next.
It was semi-sweltering only because the humidity and heat were worse earlier this summer, said Look, who is in the process of mixing and matching his veterans and newcomers into a cohesive unit for the team’s upcoming scrimmages (at Roosevelt, 6 p.m. on Thursday, and at home against Waianae at 10 a.m. on Saturday) and the season opener (in the Father Bray Classic against Kamehameha-Maui at 7 p.m. at Aloha Stadium on Aug. 8).
Luckily, on this day, Look opened up about what he’s looking for from the various candidates for starting jobs, only some of which have been settled. These are the kids, mind you, that took it upon themselves to move up to stand by the league rules and not appeal a ruling that has the Raiders moving up to D-I. These players are primed to show something this season. There’s a fire burning inside that is going hand-in-hand with some doubt.
Here is what Look had to say, in general, about what he expects from all the players who play the various positions:
>> Offensive line: “That’s the heart and soul of the offense and we have some quality returnees there. They have to be the ones that set the tempo. And, as seems to always be the case, we’re lacking depth.”
>> Wideouts: “We’ve got returnees here and will rely on them for high production.”
>> Slots: “They have to be very versatile. They have to be blockers, runners, pass-catchers. And they have to make many route adjustments depending on the situation.”
>> Running backs: “They have to be ready and able to carry 25 to 30 times a game as a group. We’re not just strictly a passing team.”
>> Quareterbacks: “They have to be great decision-makers.”
>> Defensive front six: “They’re going to have to play above and beyond anything they’ve ever done before (with ‘Iolani moving up from Division II to D-I). This is the veteran group of the defense.”
>> Safeties and cornerbacks: “We have a solid group, but we’re lacking in depth and experience.”
And of course, ‘Iolani’s up-tempo offensive style is an important element in keeping defenses guessing
“We would go faster if the referees would let us,” Look said, half-jokingly about his players ready to snap the ball while the officials are still in the process of spotting it.
And what about that doubt that is sitting there along with all the fire burning for this new D-I challenge?
“Being able to (compete for a title) against these D-I teams is very humbling,” senior offensive tackle Taaga Tuulima said. “I hope so (that the team will be ready). Some of our players are hesitant going up against these All-Star types of teams.”
Tuulima said it will be up to the veterans to show the newcomers that they are indeed ready.
“I’ve been playing since my sophomore year,” he said. “Now, it’s my job to help the sophomores and juniors get up to speed.”
Senior linebacker Melvin Hoomanawanui is another one of those leaders in charge of lighting the kindling to get the bigger burst of flames going.
“I’m looking forward to being more of a leader this year,” he said. “Helping everyone get better and building confidence. Some players are nervous and it’s our job to help them believe in themselves.”