CRAIG KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii secondary coach Rich Miano is giving former linebacker Brad Kalilimoku a crash course in playing safety this week.
Kalilimoku finds safety
Last year's starter at inside linebacker has the build to excel in the secondary for UH
Find the right place for a key piece of a puzzle and the rest solves itself.
Such is the case with Hawaii junior Brad Kalilimoku. The UH defense coaches are using the first week of spring practice to see if the starting inside linebacker of a year ago is a good fit at strong safety. If he is, it could help the Warriors get more of their best athletes on the field.
Kalilimoku has the physical attributes of a strong safety. At 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds he is fast, strong and tough. He benches 405 pounds and covers 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. The deciding factor on whether this four-day experiment is a success is his pass-coverage ability.
The Roosevelt graduate was always undersized for inside linebacker, but he made plays, including 100 tackles over the past two seasons. He was needed because no one else could handle the position. Now, though, the Warriors have young bucks like sophomores Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian and freshman Brashton Satele to fill the middle.
But if Kalilimoku can't cover receivers, the next experiment begins -- at outside linebacker.
"Good so far," defensive backs coach Rich Miano said yesterday after the first of 15 spring workouts. "He has all the speed and athleticism and physicality you need for the position of strong safety. He was better mentally on the first day than we thought he might be. If he keeps working and studying we have high hopes. If it goes well he'll stay there."
Last year's strong safety, Lono Manners, has completed his eligibility. Kalilimoku said his former roommate helps him learn the position's responsibilities. So does Leonard Peters, the veteran free safety who is in spring camp awaiting word from the NCAA on his medical appeal for another season.
"I was kind of nervous today," Kalilimoku said. "But I think it's the best spot for me for the long run. Coach Miano's a good coach. He'll get on my case and let me know when I'm not doing it. I need that. I don't need somebody babying me. It'll make me better."
Kalilimoku said sometimes he has to let the action come to him rather than committing right away as a linebacker often does.
"I would say I need to be not so quick on the run. Sometimes I'm the last resort now. Usually I'm just flying all over the place when I play linebacker," he said. "I'm working on my weakness, pass coverage. I'm going to try my best. It's something I really want to do."
If it doesn't work out, Kalilimoku will probably still play a lot, somewhere, defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said.
"We're just taking a look. Nothing's locked into concrete," Glanville said. "I told Brad, 'Nobody's mad at you. You're a player.' "
Fine-tuning: Even after a debut season in which he led the nation in passing yardage, UH quarterback Colt Brennan knows he can improve. He began working on some trouble spots at yesterday morning's practice.
"The coaches picked out plays I had trouble with and situations that I had trouble with. My weaknesses," he said. "I've been watching film and trying to figure out how to get better in spring."
Brennan concedes he doesn't have UH's version of the run-and-shoot mastered yet.
"There's four or five plays that I'm like 80 to 90 percent completion on and I understand it very well. Then there's three or four plays about 40 percent completion on, I'm having trouble understanding it, trouble reading it and not getting to my third or fourth progression.
"We've gone over those plays and found why I was having a problem on them. Now it's just fine-tuning those little weaknesses that you find over time."
Yesterday's rain just made it a little more challenging.
"I would've definitely preferred it be dry and to come out here and show how hard we've been working the last couple weeks, the last month. But it's Hawaii, it rains out here. I've seen sun about three days the past couple of months," Brennan said. "We kind of expected it'd be raining some during spring ball, but it helps you get used to throwing in bad weather. You just got to battle through it and have fun with it as much as you can.
Limbo I: Peters, running backs Nate Ilaoa and Bryan Maneafaiga and receiver Ian Sample are still waiting to see if they'll be eligible in the fall.
UH has filed petitions on their behalf for additional eligibility because of injuries.
"We're just waiting on the NCAA appeal process," Warriors coach June Jones said. "They can practice while they're in limbo. So hopefully we'll get good news shortly."
Ilaoa is hoping for the best but prepared for bad news.
"You've got to be optimistic about it. If it doesn't come, that's part of it. It either comes or it doesn't. You obviously think about it. Might as well keep working out for next year, (for pro) combines, whatever."
Limbo II: It appears more likely every day that graduate assistant Jeff Reinebold will become the new defensive line coach to replace Vantz Singletary. But Jones had no announcement regarding the position yesterday.
"The timetable on that is still six or seven days," he said.
Reinebold, the interim defensive line coach, was assisted by volunteer assistant Dave Stephens. Stephens, an assistant coach at Kalaheo High School, lettered at UH in 1973 and 1974 and was a teammate of Jones. He said he is not applying for the Warriors staff opening.
"I have other commitments, especially with my two sons at Kalaheo," he said.
New graduate assistant Hyrum Peters was not on the field yesterday. The former UH safety said his main assignment for now is monitoring study hall.